Genetic Diversity in Italian Greyhounds

Genetic Diversity in Italian Greyhounds

Italian Greyhounds (IG) in the USA began with a small number of founders imported from Europe, with limited introduction of new dogs in the subsequent decades resulting in narrow breeding choices. These genetic bottlenecks were enhanced by a series of popular sires and their progeny, each followed by an extended period of close linebreeding. The resultant inbreeding has reduced genetic diversity, and increased homozygosity, in contemporary dogs. This has resulted in a greater susceptibility to a wide range of autoimmune diseases and inadvertent positive selection of other complex and simple deleterious traits. This loss of genetic diversity prompted a search for dogs currently in Continental Europe, parts of which were once behind the Iron Curtain. However, Italian Greyhounds from Continental Europe also lacked genetic diversity, but were genetically distinguishable from North American IG, both across the genome, and also in the DLA region. The cause of their lost diversity was not determined, although they probably suffered some of the same types of genetic bottlenecks as IG in the USA. Italian Greyhounds from Continental Europe appear to suffer from many of the same common heritable health problems as IG from the USA, but no information was obtained pertaining to the incidence of autoimmune diseases. The incidence of autoimmune diseases in IG from the USA may decrease with a concerted effort to decrease homozygosity across the genome and especially in the DLA region. Dogs that have suffered autoimmune disorders should not be used for breeding. Italian Greyhounds from the USA and Continental Europe, together with other small sight-hound breeds, could also be used to increase genetic diversity in both populations. However, care should be taken to avoid introductions of polygenic or simple recessive genetic disorders that may be unique to one population or the other.

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