Genes of domestic mammals augmented by backcrossing with wild ancestors

Trends Genet. 2005 Apr;21(4):214-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2005.02.004.


Both archaeological data and the presence of few mitochondrial DNA lineages suggest that most widespread domestic mammals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and dogs) derive from only a handful of domestication events. However, each of these species shows a high level of diversity at the nuclear genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Through simulations incorporating various degrees of population subdivision, growth rate and selection, we demonstrate that the numerous MHC DRB alleles that are present in modern domestic mammals implies that substantial backcrossing with wild ancestors, either accidental or intentional, has been important in shaping the genetic diversity of our domesticates. These results support the view that, contrary to common assumption, domestic and wild lineages might not have been clearly separated throughout their history.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / genetics*
  • Animals, Wild / genetics*
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Inbreeding*
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial