Christopher Kaelin

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Christopher Kaelin
Kaelin at his wedding.jpg
Chris Bryan Kaelin
Christopher Kaelin

(1973-05-26)May 26, 1973[1]
ResidenceRedwood City, California
Known for
  • Discovery of the spotting gene in felines
  • Discovery of gene for fur and skin color
  • Research on the gene that controls weight regulation
Spouse(s)Jen Chu Kaelin
ChildrenOne son
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University

Christopher Bryan Kaelin is a geneticist and pigmentation scientist at Stanford University. He is also the senior scientist in Gregory Barsh's lab, in residence in the Tang Lab. Kaelin has isolated several significant genes: one responsible for spotting in felines; one which produces color in dog; another responsible for skin color. His genetic research is also studied for its impact on weight regulation.

Career and research[edit]

As the senior scientist for Greg Barsh, (Greg Barsh is a geneticist and pigmentation scientist at Stanford University and the Hudson Alpha Institute of Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala.)[2] Kaelin has studied color and pattern variations in dogs and cats. One major discovery that Kaelin was involved with: is the gene that makes a protein that’s part of a large and variable family called defensins, thought to fight infections. This protein engages the melanocortin pathway, a circuit of molecular interactions that controls the body's production of the type of melanin and amount of cortisol. Barsh’s lab has studied this pathway, which determines skin and hair color as well as stress adaptation and weight regulation.[3]

Kaelin has determined that skin and coat colors is formed by the regulation of genes, which can change the progression/differentiation of melanocytes or the process of melanin synthesis. The molecular genetic mechanism of coat color variation has previously been investigated in pigs and many of the genes that control coat color in this animal also regulate coat color in other species.[4]

Kaelin also studied the production of yellow versus black pigment in dogs, which is controlled by three genes: Mc1r, Agouti, and CBD103. Kaelin proved that the A β-Defensin Mutation Causes Black Coat Color in Domestic Dogs [5] Kaelin inserted the dog gene in transgenic mice, and their fur grew out black.[6]

Researching the marble and spotted genes in felines[edit]

Kaelin's research has been used to identify the spotted gene in domestic Bengal cats. Bengal breeders were interested in finding out which breeding cats carried the gene for marble bengals and which breeding cats are pure for spotting or rosetting. Domestic cats have four distinct and heritable coat patterns – ticked, mackerel, blotched, and spotted – these are collectively referred to as tabby markings.[7] Kaelin studied the color and pattern variations of feral cats in Northern California, and was able to identify the gene responsible for the marble pattern in Bengal cats.[8][9] He identified the gene responsible for tabby pattern variation in domestic cats as Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep), which encodes a membrane-bound Metalloproteinase. Analyzing 31 other felid species, he identified Taqpep as the cause of the rare king cheetah phenotype, in which spots coalesce into blotches and stripes.[10][11][12][13]


  1. ^ Kaelin, Christopher. "Christopher Kaelin". Facebook. Facebook. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Scientists unlock the mystery of cats' stripes SEPTEMBER 20, 2012". The Associated Press. CBS news. September 20, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  3. ^ Stephens, Tim. "Discovery of gene for black coat color in dogs has broad implications". news.ucsc. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Ostrander, Elaine A.; Ruvinsky, Anatoly (2012). Genetics of the Dog (2nd ed.). Oxfordshire Cambridge, MA: CAB: CAB International. pp. 57–82. ISBN 978-1845939403.
  5. ^ "A β-Defensin Mutation Causes Black Coat Color in Domestic Dogs". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  6. ^ SPECTOR, ROSANNE. "Scientists sniff out gene that makes dog fur black". stanford. Stanford University. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  7. ^ Barsh, Greg; Kaelin, Christopher. "Tabby pattern genetics – a whole new breed of cat". onlinelibrary. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  8. ^ "One way to skin a cat – same genes behind blotches of tabbies and king cheetahs". nationalgeographic. National Geographic Partners. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  9. ^ Conger, Krista. "How the cheetah got its stripes: A genetic tale by Stanford researchers". Stanford. Stanford University. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  10. ^ "Specifying and Sustaining Pigmentation Patterns in Domestic and Wild Cats". Science (6101): 1536–1541. September 21, 2012. doi:10.1126/science.1220893.
  11. ^ Norton, Elizabeth (September 20, 2012). "How the Tabby Got Its Blotches". Science. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  12. ^ "One Gene Lays The Blueprint for A Cheetah's Spots And A Tabby Cat's Stripes". popsci. Popular Science. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  13. ^ "How the Tabby Got Its Blotches". sciencemag. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved May 1, 2019.

External links[edit]