Degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) is the most commonly acquired cardiac disease in dogs. This study evaluated the relationship between genetic variations in the serotonin transporter (SERT) gene of Maltese dogs and DMVD. Genomic DNA was extracted from blood samples collected from 20 client-owned DMVD Maltese dogs and 10 healthy control dogs, and each exon of the SERT gene was amplified via polymerase chain reaction. The resulting genetic sequences were aligned and analyzed for variations by comparing with reference sequences; the predicted secondary structures of these variations were modeled and cross-verified by applying computational methods. Genetic variations, including five nonsynonymous genetic variations, were detected in five exons. Protein structure and function of the five nonsynonymous genetic variations were predicted. Three of the five polymorphisms were predicted to be probable causes of damage to protein function and confirmed by protein structure model verification. This study identified six polymorphisms of the SERT gene in Maltese dogs with DMVD, suggesting an association between the SERT gene and canine DMVD. This is the first study of SERT mutation in Maltese dogs with DMVD and is considered a pilot study into clinical genetic examination for early DMVD diagnosis.
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