Dickkopf 4 (Dkk4) gene vital to the process of creating cat fur patterns

The research results report is impenetrable for the average layperson. I would politely ask the scientists to provide a second write-up of their research in straightforward English so the general public can understand it. Thanks in advance. This is important research which is central to understanding one of the most important features of domestic cats: the appearance of their coat. It is the most important aspect of the cat's appearance. Please tell us how it works in plain English. I am sure that even the science journalists struggle with the scientists' write-up.

Dickkopf 4 (Dkk4) gene vital to the process of creating cat fur patterns
Dickkopf 4 (Dkk4) gene vital to the process of creating cat fur patterns. Image: The researchers.

One of the scientists involved, Dr. Gregory S. Barsh. said to The New York Times:

"We think this is really the first glimpse into what the molecules (involved in pattern development) might be".

They carried out the research at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, USA.

The research identified a gene they have called Dickkopf (Dkk4) as the centre of the process of cat coat pattern development.

"The secreted Wnt inhibitor encoded by Dickkopf 4 plays a central role in this process, and is mutated in cats with the Ticked pattern type".

They analysed skin samples from non-viable cat embryos for the study. Note: they made that clear I guess to avoid criticism of animal testing. Good. It shows a sensitivity towards the immorality of animal testing.

They used the embryos to explore the genetics behind a wide range of cat coat patterns. The original pattern for the domestic cat is the mackerel tabby (my comment) as it comes from the North African wildcat, the domestic cat's wild ancestor. All tabby cats have the famous M mark on their forehead, sometimes almost invisible.

Associated: Why are tabby cats so common?

At birth all cats have developed their coat type that they'll have for their lives.

Dickkopf 4 (Dkk4) gene vital to the process of creating cat fur patterns
Image: the researchers.

The gene Dkk4, as it changes in the embryo, dictates the pattern. They found that this 'signalling molecule' is behind all the coat appearance of a range of animals including cheetahs, tigers, leopards and the domestic cat.

Associated page: Cat coats tabby.

Differences in the expression of the molecule during the development of the embryo produces the variety of coat patterns during later hair growth.

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