In DepthDevelopmental Genetics

How cats get their stripes and spots

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Science  04 Dec 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6521, pp. 1147
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6521.1147

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Summary

When Rudyard Kipling told how the leopard got his spots, he missed the mark. Leopards have "rosettes"; spots are for cheetahs. But whatever you call the markings, how these wild cats—and their domestic counterparts—acquire them has long been a mystery. Now, researchers have found an answer by studying domestic cats. In doing so they have shown that a 70-year-old theory explaining color patterns in nature holds true in cats, and likely, in other mammals as well. Molecules belonging to a key developmental pathway called Wnt signaling interact to establish spots and stripes at an earlier than expected stage of development, the researchers discovered. Mutations in one of these molecules' genes cause spots to be so small and numerous that the cats seem to be a solid color. Tweaks to another gene lead to large blotches, thereby illustrating how such a wide variety of coat color patterns could have evolved.

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