Mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome diversity in East Adriatic sheep

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Variation in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome haplotypes was analysed in nine domestic sheep breeds (159 rams) and 21 mouflon ( Ovis musimon) sampled in the East Adriatic. Mitochondrial DNA analyses revealed a high frequency of type B haplotypes, predominantly in European breeds, and a very low frequency of type A haplotypes, which are more frequent in some Asian breeds. Mitochondrial haplotype Hmt-3 was the most frequent (26.4%), and 37.1%, 20.8% and 7.6% of rams had haplotypes one, two and three mutations remote from Hmt-3 respectively. In contrast, Y-chromosome analyses revealed extraordinary paternal allelic richness: HY-6, 89.3%; HY-8, 5.0%; HY-18, 3.1%; HY-7, 1.3%; and HY-5, 1.3%. In fact, the number of haplotypes observed is comparable to the number found in Turkish breeds and greater than the number found in European breeds so far. Haplotype HY-18 (A-oY1/135-SRYM18), identified here for the first time, provides a link between the haplotype HY-12 (A-oY1/139-SRYM18) found in a few rams in Turkey and haplotype HY-9 (A-oY1/131-SRYM18) found in one ram in Ethiopia. All mouflons had type B mtDNA haplotypes, including the private haplotype (Hmt-55), and all were paternally monomorphic for haplotype HY-6. Our data support a quite homogeneous maternal origin of East Adriatic sheep, which is a characteristic of European breeds. At the same time, the high number of haplotypes found was surprising and intriguing, and it begs for further analysis. Simultaneous analysis of mtDNA and Y-chromosome information allowed us to detect a large discrepancy between maternal and paternal lineages in some populations. This is most likely the result of breeder efforts to ‘upgrade’ local populations using rams with different paternal origins.

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