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See detailEvolutionary Genomics and Conservation of the Endangered Przewalski's Horse.
Der Sarkissian, Clio; Ermini, Luca; Schubert, Mikkel et al

in Current Biology (2015), 25(19), 2577-83

Przewalski's horses (PHs, Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii) were discovered in the Asian steppes in the 1870s and represent the last remaining true wild horses. PHs became extinct in the wild in the 1960s but ... [more ▼]

Przewalski's horses (PHs, Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii) were discovered in the Asian steppes in the 1870s and represent the last remaining true wild horses. PHs became extinct in the wild in the 1960s but survived in captivity, thanks to major conservation efforts. The current population is still endangered, with just 2,109 individuals, one-quarter of which are in Chinese and Mongolian reintroduction reserves [1]. These horses descend from a founding population of 12 wild-caught PHs and possibly up to four domesticated individuals [2-4]. With a stocky build, an erect mane, and stripped and short legs, they are phenotypically and behaviorally distinct from domesticated horses (DHs, Equus caballus). Here, we sequenced the complete genomes of 11 PHs, representing all founding lineages, and five historical specimens dated to 1878-1929 CE, including the Holotype. These were compared to the hitherto-most-extensive genome dataset characterized for horses, comprising 21 new genomes. We found that loci showing the most genetic differentiation with DHs were enriched in genes involved in metabolism, cardiac disorders, muscle contraction, reproduction, behavior, and signaling pathways. We also show that DH and PH populations split approximately 45,000 years ago and have remained connected by gene-flow thereafter. Finally, we monitor the genomic impact of approximately 110 years of captivity, revealing reduced heterozygosity, increased inbreeding, and variable introgression of domestic alleles, ranging from non-detectable to as much as 31.1%. This, together with the identification of ancestry informative markers and corrections to the International Studbook, establishes a framework for evaluating the persistence of genetic variation in future reintroduced populations. [less ▲]

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See detailRecalibrating Equus evolution using the genome sequence of an early Middle Pleistocene horse.
Orlando, Ludovic; Ginolhac, Aurélien UL; Zhang, Guojie et al

in Nature (2013), 499(7456), 74-8

The rich fossil record of equids has made them a model for evolutionary processes. Here we present a 1.12-times coverage draft genome from a horse bone recovered from permafrost dated to approximately 560 ... [more ▼]

The rich fossil record of equids has made them a model for evolutionary processes. Here we present a 1.12-times coverage draft genome from a horse bone recovered from permafrost dated to approximately 560-780 thousand years before present (kyr BP). Our data represent the oldest full genome sequence determined so far by almost an order of magnitude. For comparison, we sequenced the genome of a Late Pleistocene horse (43 kyr BP), and modern genomes of five domestic horse breeds (Equus ferus caballus), a Przewalski's horse (E. f. przewalskii) and a donkey (E. asinus). Our analyses suggest that the Equus lineage giving rise to all contemporary horses, zebras and donkeys originated 4.0-4.5 million years before present (Myr BP), twice the conventionally accepted time to the most recent common ancestor of the genus Equus. We also find that horse population size fluctuated multiple times over the past 2 Myr, particularly during periods of severe climatic changes. We estimate that the Przewalski's and domestic horse populations diverged 38-72 kyr BP, and find no evidence of recent admixture between the domestic horse breeds and the Przewalski's horse investigated. This supports the contention that Przewalski's horses represent the last surviving wild horse population. We find similar levels of genetic variation among Przewalski's and domestic populations, indicating that the former are genetically viable and worthy of conservation efforts. We also find evidence for continuous selection on the immune system and olfaction throughout horse evolution. Finally, we identify 29 genomic regions among horse breeds that deviate from neutrality and show low levels of genetic variation compared to the Przewalski's horse. Such regions could correspond to loci selected early during domestication. [less ▲]

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See detailTrue single-molecule DNA sequencing of a pleistocene horse bone.
Orlando, Ludovic; Ginolhac, Aurélien UL; Raghavan, Maanasa et al

in Genome research (2011), 21(10), 1705-19

Second-generation sequencing platforms have revolutionized the field of ancient DNA, opening access to complete genomes of past individuals and extinct species. However, these platforms are dependent on ... [more ▼]

Second-generation sequencing platforms have revolutionized the field of ancient DNA, opening access to complete genomes of past individuals and extinct species. However, these platforms are dependent on library construction and amplification steps that may result in sequences that do not reflect the original DNA template composition. This is particularly true for ancient DNA, where templates have undergone extensive damage post-mortem. Here, we report the results of the first "true single molecule sequencing" of ancient DNA. We generated 115.9 Mb and 76.9 Mb of DNA sequences from a permafrost-preserved Pleistocene horse bone using the Helicos HeliScope and Illumina GAIIx platforms, respectively. We find that the percentage of endogenous DNA sequences derived from the horse is higher among the Helicos data than Illumina data. This result indicates that the molecular biology tools used to generate sequencing libraries of ancient DNA molecules, as required for second-generation sequencing, introduce biases into the data that reduce the efficiency of the sequencing process and limit our ability to fully explore the molecular complexity of ancient DNA extracts. We demonstrate that simple modifications to the standard Helicos DNA template preparation protocol further increase the proportion of horse DNA for this sample by threefold. Comparison of Helicos-specific biases and sequence errors in modern DNA with those in ancient DNA also reveals extensive cytosine deamination damage at the 3' ends of ancient templates, indicating the presence of 3'-sequence overhangs. Our results suggest that paleogenomes could be sequenced in an unprecedented manner by combining current second- and third-generation sequencing approaches. [less ▲]

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