We aimed to determine whether casein variants that are currently segregating in ovine populations existed before the domestication of sheep or, to the contrary, if their emergence is much more recent. To this end, we have retrieved whole-genome sequences from Iranian and domestic sheep from Africa, Europe, South and East Asia and West Asia. Population structure analysis based on 55,352,935 SNPs revealed a clear separation between Iranian mouflons and domestic sheep. Moreover, we also observed a strong genetic differentiation between Iranian mouflons sampled in geographic areas close to Tehran and Tabriz. Based on sequence data, hundreds of SNPs mapping to the casein αS1 (CSN1S1, 248 SNPs), casein αS2 (CSN1S2, 268 SNPs), casein ß (CSN2, 146 SNPs) and casein κ (CSN3, 112 SNPs) genes were identified. Approximately 25–63.02% of the casein variation was shared between Iranian mouflons and domestic sheep, and the four domestic sheep populations also shared 44.2–57.4% of the casein polymorphic sites. These findings suggest that an important fraction of the casein variation present in domestic sheep was already segregating in the mouflon prior to its domestication. Genomic studies performed in horses and dogs are consistent with this view, suggesting that much of the diversity that we currently detect in domestic animals comes from standing variation already segregating in their wild ancestors.
- casein genes