Phylogeny of horse chromosome 5q in the genus equus and centromere repositioning

F. M. Piras, S. G. Nergadze, V. Poletto, F. Cerutti, O. A. Ryder, T. Leeb, E. Raimondi, E. Giulotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Horses, asses and zebras belong to the genus Equus and are the only extant species of the family Equidae in the order Perissodactyla. In a previous work we demonstrated that a key factor in the rapid karyotypic evolution of this genus was evolutionary centromere repositioning, that is, the shift of the centromeric function to a new position without alteration of the order of markers along the chromosome. In search of previously undiscovered evolutionarily new centromeres, we traced the phylogeny of horse chromosome 5, analyzing the order of BAC markers, derived from a horse genomic library, in 7 Equus species (E. caballus, E. hemionus onager, E. kiang, E. asinus, E. grevyi, E. burchelli and E. zebra hartmannae). This analysis showed that repositioned centromeres are present in E. asinus (domestic donkey, EAS) chromosome 16 and in E. burchelli (Burchell's zebra, EBU) chromosome 17, confirming that centromere repositioning is a strikingly frequent phenomenon in this genus. The observation that the neocentromeres in EAS16 and EBU17 are in the same chromosomal position suggests that they may derive from the same event and therefore, E. asinus and E. burchelli may be more closely related than previously proposed; alternatively, 2 centromere repositioning events, involving the same chromosomal region, may have occurred independently in different lineages, pointing to the possible existence of hot spots for neocentromere formation. Our comparative analysis also showed that, while E. caballus chromosome 5 seems to represent the ancestral configuration, centric fission followed by independent fusion events gave rise to 3 different submetacentric chromosomes in other Equus lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalCytogenetic and Genome Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • Centromere repositioning
  • Donkey
  • Genus Equus
  • Horse
  • Karyotype evolution
  • Neocentromere
  • Perissodactyla
  • Zebra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Molecular Biology


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