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FGF4L2 retrogene copy number is associated with intervertebral disc calcification and vertebral geometry in Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.



To evaluate the effects of the chondrodystrophy-associated FGF4L2 retrogene on intervertebral disc (IVD) calcification and vertebral geometry.


22 Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (NSDTR) with no FGF4L2 retrogene (n = 7, wild-type dogs), 1 retrogene copy (8, heterozygous dogs), or 2 retrogene copies (7, homozygous dogs).


Computed tomography (CT) scans of the vertebral column were analyzed using computer-aided design (CAD) software. IVD calcification, vertebral column length, and vertebral geometry of the third cervical (C3), 13th thoracic (T13), and first lumbar (L1) vertebrae were compared.


IVD calcification was not found in wild-type dogs. IVD calcification was more frequent in homozygous dogs than heterozygous (P = .008) or wild-type dogs (P < .001) and in heterozygous dogs compared to wild-type dogs (P < .001). Four IVDs were subclinically herniated in 3 dogs (2 homozygous, 1 heterozygous). Calcified IVD had a greater volume and surface area in heterozygous dogs than homozygous dogs. C3 vertebral canal height-to-width ratio was greater in homozygous dogs than heterozygous dogs (P = .044) and wild-type dogs (P = .010).

Clinical relevance

IVD calcification and vertebral geometry can be analyzed using CAD software. The presence of 1 or 2 FGF4L2 copies in the absence of the FGF4L1 retrogene has an additive effect on the number of calcified IVD and a minor effect on vertebral geometry in NSDTR dogs. Data support the use of FGF4L2 phenotyping to reduce clinical disease in segregating breeds and to monitor the introduction of wild-type alleles into fixed breed populations.

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