Ever since the first published anecdotal reports of luminescent rhinaria on some members of the diminutive reindeer subspecies R. tarandus pearyi, the public and the scientific community alike have been fascinated by this striking phenotype1-3. However, the biological basis for glowing reindeer noses has remained elusive until recently.
The first major advance came in the late-1990s, when researchers formally described multiple pedigrees displaying cases of the red-nose phenotype4, followed quickly by applying linkage analysis in order to identify an associated genomic locus containing a single gene, termed Rud15. Inhibition of Rud1 expression using antisense approaches was shown to locally reduce nose brightness, but transgenic animals carrying the Rud1 red-nose allele did not display glowing noses, and instead had only weakly luminous tissues6.
The field of reindeer nose biology remained relatively stagnant until modern sequencing technology made the complete genome of north pole R. t. pearyi available, and in particular genome sequencing of several members of known red-nose families identified a second gene associated with rhinaria luminescence7. This second factor, termed RNAF (for Red-Nose Activating Factor) serves as an activation and localization cofactor for the RUD1 protein. Strikingly, transgenic mice carrying red-nose alleles of both Rud1 and Rnaf display brightly glowing noses, exactly like the natural red-nose reindeer phenotype8. This landmark discovery finally explains the genetic basis for the fascinating phenomenon of glowing reindeer noses, and has the potential to revolutionize the nascent field of illumination bioengineering.
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- May R.L. and Gillen D. (1939) Rudolph: The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Montgomery Ward
- Jam Handy Organization. (1948) Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Theatrical cartoon short.
- Marks J. (1949) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Performed by Gene Autry and The Pinafores. Columbia records.
- Kringle K. and Tide Y. (1996) The Donner and Blitzen lineages represent distinct reindeer pedigrees, each sporadically manifesting the luminescent-nose phenotype. J. Holiday Biol. 12:24-7
- Klaus S., Man F.S., and Kringle K. (1998) Cloning and sequencing of the Rud1 gene associated with the red luminescent-nose phenotype in R. tarandus. Arct. Genet. 16:76-9.
- Klaus S., Mas C., and Kringle K. (2000) A mild pink glow phenotype associated with ectopic expression of the reindeer RUD1 gene in transgenic mice. J. Holiday Biol. 16:76-9.
- Magical Reindeer Sequencing Consortium (2013) The complete genome sequence of the magical north pole reindeer R. tarandus pearyi and three red-nose phenotype individuals. Arct. Genet. 31:102-8.
- Frost J. and Klaus S. (2015) Double transgenic mice carrying the red-nose alleles of reindeer Rud1 and Rnaf have brightly luminescent red noses. J. Reindeer Biochem. 34:19-23.
* This article is meant to be humorous. All scientific information and entities described here are purely fiction.