Background: The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is an emerging rodent model for investigating the genetics, evolution and molecular mechanisms of social behavior. Though a karyotype for the prairie vole has been reported and low-resolution comparative cytogenetic analyses have been done in this species, other basic genetic resources for this species, such as a genetic linkage map, are lacking.
Results: Here we report the construction of a genome-wide linkage map of the prairie vole. The linkage map consists of 406 markers that are spaced on average every 7 Mb and span an estimated ~90% of the genome. The sex average length of the linkage map is 1707 cM, which, like other Muroid rodent linkage maps, is on the lower end of the length distribution of linkage maps reported to date for placental mammals. Linkage groups were assigned to 19 out of the 26 prairie vole autosomes as well as the X chromosome. Comparative analyses of the prairie vole linkage map based on the location of 387 Type I markers identified 61 large blocks of synteny with the mouse genome. In addition, the results of the comparative analyses revealed a potential elevated rate of inversions in the prairie vole lineage compared to the laboratory mouse and rat.
Conclusions: A genetic linkage map of the prairie vole has been constructed and represents the fourth genome-wide high-resolution linkage map reported for Muroid rodents and the first for a member of the Arvicolinae sub-family. This resource will advance studies designed to dissect the genetic basis of a variety of social behaviors and other traits in the prairie vole as well as our understanding of genome evolution in the genus Microtus.