Whole-genome resequencing of worldwide wild and domestic sheep elucidates genetic diversity, introgression and agronomically important loci

Feng-Hua Lv, Yin-Hong Cao, Guang-Jian Liu, Ling-Yun Luo, Ran Lu, Ming-Jun Liu, Wen-Rong Li, Ping Zhou, Xin-Hua Wang, Min Shen, Lei Gao, Jing-Quan Yang, Hua Yang, Yong-Lin Yang, Chang-Bin Liu, Peng-Cheng Wan, Yun-Sheng Zhang, Wen-Hui Pi, Yan-Ling Ren, Zhi-Qiang ShenFeng Wang, Yu-Tao Wang, Jin-Quan Li, Hosein Salehian-Dehkordi, Eer Hehua, Yong-Gang Liu, Jian-Fei Chen, Jian-Kui Wang, Xue-Mei Deng, Ali Esmailizadeh, Mostafa Dehghani-Qanatqestani, Hadi Charati, Maryam Nosrati, Ondřej Štěpánek, Hossam E Rushdi, Ingrid Olsaker, Ino Curik, Neena A Gorkhali, Samuel R Paiva, Alexandre R Caetano, Elena Ciani, Marcel Amills, Christina Weimann, Georg Erhardt, Agraw Amane, Joram M Mwacharo, Jian-Lin Han, Olivier Hanotte, Kathiravan Periasamy, Anna M Johansson, Jón H Hallsson, Juha Kantanen, David W Coltman, Michael W Bruford, Johannes A Lenstra, Meng-Hua Li

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Domestic sheep and their wild relatives harbor substantial genetic variants that can form the backbone of molecular breeding, but their genome landscapes remain understudied. Here, we present a comprehensive genome resource for wild ovine species, landraces and improved breeds of domestic sheep, comprising high-coverage (∼16.10×) whole genomes of 810 samples from 7 wild species and 158 diverse domestic populations. We detected, in total, ∼121.2 million single nucleotide polymorphisms, ∼61 million of which are novel. Some display significant (P < 0.001) differences in frequency between wild and domestic species, or are private to continent-wide or individual sheep populations. Retained or introgressed wild gene variants in domestic populations have contributed to local adaptation, such as the variation in the HBB associated with plateau adaptation. We identified novel and previously reported targets of selection on morphological and agronomic traits such as stature, horn, tail configuration, and wool fineness. We explored the genetic basis of wool fineness and unveiled a novel mutation (chr25: T7,068,586C) in the 3′-UTR of IRF2BP2 as plausible causal variant for fleece fiber diameter. We reconstructed prehistorical migrations from the Near Eastern domestication center to South-and-Southeast Asia and found two main waves of migrations across the Eurasian Steppe and the Iranian Plateau in the Early and Late Bronze Ages. Our findings refine our understanding of genome variation as shaped by continental migrations, introgression, adaptation, and selection of sheep.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermsab353
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number2
Early online date10 Dec 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptive introgression
  • agronomic traits
  • genetic diversity
  • genetic selection
  • migration
  • whole-genome sequences


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