Genetic basis of ruminant headgear and rapid antler regeneration

Journal: Science

Published: 2019-06-21

DOI: 10.1126/science.aav6335

Affiliations: 15

Authors: 38

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Research Highlight

No more ruminating over antler origins

© DamianKuzdak/Getty

© DamianKuzdak/Getty

Genes that help grow horns and antlers could also be behind cancer resistance in deer.

Many ruminant animals, with their multi-stomach systems, also have distinctive headgear, from cow horns to giraffe ossicones, but how and when these features evolved is unresolved.

Now, a team that included researchers from Northwestern Polytechnical University sequenced the genomes of different sheep, goat and deer species and found that horns and antlers evolved once from a common ancestor through changes in genes that also build skin, bone and nerves.

Chinese water deer and musk deer subsequently lost their headgear due to a mutation in one antler-promoting gene.

The team also found that several genes that control antler size also suppress tumour growth, potentially explaining the lower cancer rate observed in deer compared to other animals.

Deer antlers are the only fully regenerating organs among mammals. Understanding their evolution could contribute towards regenerative biology and cancer research.

Supported content

  1. Science 364, 1153 (2019). doi: 10.1126/science.aav6335
Institutions Share
Northwest A&F University (NWAFU), China 0.32
Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU), China 0.27
Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ), CAS, China 0.11
Institute of Special Animal and Plant Sciences (TCS), CAAS, China 0.05
Institute of Animal Science, CAAS, China 0.05
Sichuan Institute of Musk Deer Breeding, China 0.05
Shihezi University (SHZU), China 0.05
University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark 0.03
Xinjiang Academy of Animal Sciences (XJAAS), China 0.03
Recombinetics, Inc., United States of America (USA) 0.03
BGI-Shenzhen, China 0.01