Exploring Genetic Diversity in Akita Inu

Originally, Akita Inu is an ancient Japanese hunting breed that has a variety of different phases in its history. Nowadays, there are tens of thousands of Akita Inus, most of them living in the breed's country of origin, Japan. The breed has developed from a small number of dogs. As a result, the breed has a narrow gene pool and therefore, the owners and breeders of Akita Inus share now a common goal to preserve the breed's genetic diversity. What we physically see in our dogs, does not often reflect what the dogs have inherited from their parents. With MyDogDNA analysis, it is possible for each dog owner and breeder to access the kind of information that would previously have required a lengthy and expensive research project. The pilot project of this genome-wide MyDogDNA analysis, launched by Genoscoper Laboratories in the Spring 2013, encouraged a number of active Akita Inu breeders, as well as the Finnish Breed Club Akita ry, to test their dogs. A tangible view on the breed's genome-wide diversity will hopefully encourage new breeders to testing. Already, it is possible to have a preliminary look at the genetic diversity of Akita Inus tested so far.

Genetic diversity of Akita Inu - A sneak peek

Based on the dog population analysed with MyDogDNA panel testing concept, the genetic diversity of Akita Inus seems to be narrower than average. The median heterozygosity of tested Akita Inus, 20.6%, is clearly on the narrower side of the tested dog population in the database (over 3000 dogs). The sample is still relatively small and doesn't necessarily correlate with the actual status of genetic diversity. On the other hand, one can still draw the conclusion that the Akita Inu population in Finland has quite narrow gene pool and needs support in increasing genetic variation in the breed. Active Akita Inu lovers and committed breeders in Finland are on the right track now in their attempts to assess and preserve genetic diversity.

The current sample size is very small compared to the amount of dogs used in breeding. The next beneficial step for this breed could be to get more individuals from different countries tested, in order to get a more comprehensive view on the lineages of the dogs. The MyDogDNA database, with its new features, allows making a comparison to the related breeds. This feature allows, for example, viewing simultaneously graphic information on the genetic relationships between Akita Inus, American Akitas, Shibas and Eurasiers.

A view to lineages in Akita Inus

Different lineages or other clear genetic differences can be examined in the graph below. As the amount of the tested dogs grows, the view will become more accurate and show how genetically different the individuals can truly be. This information can be beneficial from many perspectives: comparing the genetic information with the pedigrees can help in separating potential lines of different breeders - in Finland or outside Finland. When it comes to the known (and documented) diseases in the breed, it is possible to examine, for example, whether SA (Sebaceous Adenitis) or UDS / VKH (Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome) go hand in hand in relation to the observed genetic lineages. The next goal for Clubs and breeders is to break the milestone of hundred tested dogs! When this is achieved, it will be possible to gain access to the prevalence of the known inherited disorders in the breed.

At the moment, the genetic relationships -graph shows a fragmented population without clearly distinguishable sub-populations. It also shows that there is genetic variation within the tested population.

Finding genetically different individuals becomes easier through testing

Maintaining the rarity of known genetic diseases becomes easier along with the possibility to observe genetic diversity of all breeding dogs. For this purpose, MyDogDNA database provides every dog owner and breeder with access to MyDogDNA Breeder - dogs' matchmaking tool. The breeder tool helps assess the impact of the planned mating couple on genetic diversity of the future litter, based on genome-widely calculated genetic differences of the individuals.

A breeder or a Breed Club will get the best out of all features of MyDogDNA database only when there are as many tested individuals as possible and all individuals actively used in breeding appear in the MyDogDNA Breeder tool search results. This is why breeders have a key role in applying the new genetic information available! Testing is a guaranteed way to getting more information about the situation of the breed, and it supports the work of active breeders. Besides giving test results for individual inherited diseases and conditions, the genome-wide testing concept enables assessing genetic diversity, and thus helps prevent new problems from arising in the breed!