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Cytogenet Genome Res. 2003;102(1-4):226-34.

Genetic variation in Przewalski's horses, with special focus on the last wild caught mare, 231 Orlitza III.

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Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.


In our continuing efforts to document genetic diversity in Przewalski's horses and relatedness with domestic horses, we report genetic variation at 22 loci of blood group and protein polymorphisms and 29 loci of DNA (microsatellite) polymorphisms. The loci have been assigned by linkage or synteny mapping to 20 autosomes and the X chromosome of the domestic horse (plus four loci unassigned to a chromosome). With cumulative data from tests of 568 Przewalski's horses using blood, hair or tooth samples, no species-defining markers were identified, however a few markers were present in the wild species but not in domestic horses. Inheritance patterns and linkage relationships reported in domestic horses appeared to be conserved in Przewalski's horses. A derived type for the last wild caught mare 231 Orlitza III provided evidence for markers apparently not found in (or not currently available by descent from) the other species founders that were captured at the end of the nineteenth century. This information has been critical to the development of parentage analyses in the studbook population of Przewalski's horses at Askania Nova, at one time the largest herd of captive animals and the source of stock for reintroduction efforts. Some horses in the study showed genetic incompatibilities with their sire or dam, contradicting published studbook information. In many cases alternative parentage could be assigned from living animals. To assist in identification of correct parentage, DNA marker types for deceased horses were established from archived materials (teeth) or derived from offspring. Genetic markers were present in pedigreed animals whose origin could not be accounted for from founders. Genetic distance analysis of erythrocyte protein, electrophoretic and microsatellite markers in Przewlaski's horses and ten breeds of domestic horse place the Przewalski's horse as an outgroup to domestic horses, introgression events from domestic horses not withstanding.

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