Scientists Find Genetic Mutation That Causes Albinism in Doberman Pinschers

Posted on May 12, 2014

Albino Doberman Pinschers

Researchers at Michigan State University have found the genetic mutation that causes albinism in Doberman pinschers. The albino dogs above are squinting in the bright sunlight. Paige Winkler, a doctoral student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, co-led the study with Joshua Bartoe, an assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. The mutated gene is also associated with a form of albinism in humans.

Scientists say the albino Doberman pinschers share a similar gene with humans who have the albino condition. Human and Doberman albinos with the gene also share some similar characteristics, such as sensitivity to sunlight. This results in an increased risk of skin tumors.

Winkler says in a statement, "What we found was a gene mutation that results in a missing protein necessary for cells to be pigmented. Some defects in this same gene cause a condition called oculocutaneous albinism in humans."

Winkler also says, "With an albino Doberman, you see a white or lighter-colored coat, pink noses and lips, along with pale irises in the eyes. These traits are very similar to the characteristics humans display with this particular condition causing light-pigmented skin and hair, along with eye discoloration and vision disturbances."

The research was published here in PLoS One.

Photo: Michigan State University