Genomic methods can provide extraordinary tools to explore the genetic background of wild species and domestic breeds, optimize breeding practices, monitor and limit the spread of recessive diseases, and discourage illegal crossings. In this study we analysed a panel of 170k Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms with a combination of multivariate, Bayesian and outlier gene approaches to examine the genome-wide diversity and inbreeding levels in a recent wolf x dog cross-breed, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, which is becoming increasingly popular across Europe.
Pairwise FST values, multivariate and assignment procedures indicated that the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was significantly differentiated from all the other analysed breeds and also well-distinguished from both parental populations (Carpathian wolves and German Shepherds). Coherently with the low number of founders involved in the breed selection, the individual inbreeding levels calculated from homozygosity regions were relatively high and comparable with those derived from the pedigree data. In contrast, the coefficient of relatedness between individuals estimated from the pedigrees often underestimated the identity-by-descent scores determined using genetic profiles. The timing of the admixture and the effective population size trends estimated from the LD patterns reflected the documented history of the breed. Ancestry reconstruction methods identified more than 300 genes with excess of wolf ancestry compared to random expectations, mainly related to key morphological features, and more than 2000 genes with excess of dog ancestry, playing important roles in lipid metabolism, in the regulation of circadian rhythms, in learning and memory processes, and in sociability, such as the COMT gene, which has been described as a candidate gene for the latter trait in dogs.
In this study we successfully applied genome-wide procedures to reconstruct the history of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, assess individual wolf ancestry proportions and, thanks to the availability of a well-annotated reference genome, identify possible candidate genes for wolf-like and dog-like phenotypic traits typical of this breed, including commonly inherited disorders. Moreover, through the identification of ancestry-informative markers, these genomic approaches could provide tools for forensic applications to unmask illegal crossings with wolves and uncontrolled trades of recent and undeclared wolfdog hybrids.