The genes that turned wildcats into kitty cats
The housecat evolved from the Near Eastern wildcat (pictured).
Michael Montague et al. just published in PNAS the first complete domestic cat reference genome. They provide evolutionary assessments of the feline protein-coding genome, population genetic discoveries surrounding domestication, and a resource of domestic cat genetic variants. These analyses span broadly, from carnivore adaptations for hunting behavior to comparative odorant and chemical detection abilities between cats and dogs. They also describe how segregating genetic variation in pigmentation phenotypes has reached fixation within a single breed, and also highlight the genomic differences between domestic cats and wildcats. Specifically, the signatures of selection in the domestic cat genome are linked to genes associated with gene knockout models affecting memory, fear-conditioning behavior, and stimulus-reward learning, and potentially point to the processes by which cats became domesticated.
PNAS, 2014 Michael Montague et al.
Comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome reveals genetic signatures underlying feline biology and domestication