Donkey genomes provide new insights into domestication and selection for coat color

Nat Commun. 2020 Dec 8;11(1):6014. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19813-7.


Current knowledge about the evolutionary history of donkeys is still incomplete due to the lack of archeological and whole-genome diversity data. To fill this gap, we have de novo assembled a chromosome-level reference genome of one male Dezhou donkey and analyzed the genomes of 126 domestic donkeys and seven wild asses. Population genomics analyses indicate that donkeys were domesticated in Africa and conclusively show reduced levels of Y chromosome variability and discordant paternal and maternal histories, possibly reflecting the consequences of reproductive management. We also investigate the genetic basis of coat color. While wild asses show diluted gray pigmentation (Dun phenotype), domestic donkeys display non-diluted black or chestnut coat colors (non-Dun) that were probably established during domestication. Here, we show that the non-Dun phenotype is caused by a 1 bp deletion downstream of the TBX3 gene, which decreases the expression of this gene and its inhibitory effect on pigment deposition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Color
  • Domestication*
  • Equidae / genetics*
  • Male
  • Metagenomics
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Whole Genome Sequencing
  • Y Chromosome / genetics