Many dog breeds are susceptible to inherited disorders of sexual development, or DSDs. One such disorder, XX DSD, can lead to mismatched reproductive organs, sterility, tumors, and infections. XX DSD is a bane to breeders, but so far has been impossible to remove from the gene pool.
Meyers-Wallen’s group is working to pinpoint the cause of XX DSD and to understand how the disorder is inherited. By working with a family of dogs that carries the disorder and performing DNA sequencing and genetic screens, they have narrowed down the location of the relevant area on the dog genome connected to the problem. Her work has demonstrated that the inheritance of the disorder is not straightforward and she suspects that epigenetic factors, which are inherited changes that regulate gene expression, may also play a role.
Meyers-Wallen’s research has yielded a clearer understanding of the genetic cause of XX DSD. This knowledge is necessary for the development of any diagnostic test that could be used to ultimately eradicate this harmful disorder in purebred dogs.