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An Overview of Ten Italian Horse Breeds through Mitochondrial DNA.

By Irene Cardinali, Hovirag Lancioni, Andrea Giontella, Marco Rosario Capodiferro, Stefano Capomaccio, Luca Buttazzoni, Giovanni Paolo Biggio, Raffaele Cherchi, Emidio Albertini, Anna Olivieri, Katia Cappelli, Alessandro Achilli and Maurizio Silvestrelli


BACKGROUND:The climatic and cultural diversity of the Italian Peninsula triggered, over time, the development of a great variety of horse breeds, whose origin and history are still unclear. To clarify this issue, analyses on phenotypic traits and genealogical data were recently coupled with molecular screening. METHODOLOGY:To provide a comprehensive overview of the horse genetic variability in Italy, we produced and phylogenetically analyzed 407 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control-region sequences from ten of the most important Italian riding horse and pony breeds: Bardigiano, Esperia, Giara, Lipizzan, Maremmano, Monterufolino, Murgese, Sarcidano, Sardinian Anglo-Arab, and Tolfetano. A collection of 36 Arabian horses was also evaluated to assess the genetic consequences of their common use for the improvement of some local breeds. CONCLUSIONS:In Italian horses, all previously described domestic mtDNA haplogroups were detected as well as a high haplotype diversity. These findings indicate that the ancestral local mares harbored an extensive genetic diversity. Moreover, the limited haplotype sharing (11%) with the Arabian horse reveals that its impact on the autochthonous mitochondrial gene pools during the final establishment of pure breeds was marginal, if any. The only significant signs of genetic structure and differentiation were detected in the geographically most isolated contexts (i.e. Monterufolino and Sardinian breeds). Such a geographic effect was also confirmed in a wider breed setting, where the Italian pool stands in an intermediate position together with most of the other Mediterranean stocks. However, some notable exceptions and peculiar genetic proximities lend genetic support to historical theories about the origin of specific Italian breeds

Topics: Medicine, R, Science, Q
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153004
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