Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evolutionary dynamics of copy number variation in pig genomes in the context of adaptation and domestication

Yogesh Paudel*, Ole Madsen, Hendrik-Jan Megens, Laurent AF Frantz, Mirte Bosse, John WM Bastiaansen, Richard PMA Crooijmans and Martien AM Groenen

Author Affiliations

Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, De Elst 1, Wageningen, WD, 6708, The Netherlands

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:449  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-449

Published: 5 July 2013



Copy number variable regions (CNVRs) can result in drastic phenotypic differences and may therefore be subject to selection during domestication. Studying copy number variation in relation to domestication is highly relevant in pigs because of their very rich natural and domestication history that resulted in many different phenotypes. To investigate the evolutionary dynamic of CNVRs, we applied read depth method on next generation sequence data from 16 individuals, comprising wild boars and domestic pigs from Europe and Asia.


We identified 3,118 CNVRs with an average size of 13 kilobases comprising a total of 39.2 megabases of the pig genome and 545 overlapping genes. Functional analyses revealed that CNVRs are enriched with genes related to sensory perception, neurological process and response to stimulus, suggesting their contribution to adaptation in the wild and behavioral changes during domestication. Variations of copy number (CN) of antimicrobial related genes suggest an ongoing process of evolution of these genes to combat food-borne pathogens. Likewise, some genes related to the omnivorous lifestyle of pigs, like genes involved in detoxification, were observed to be CN variable. A small portion of CNVRs was unique to domestic pigs and may have been selected during domestication. The majority of CNVRs, however, is shared between wild and domesticated individuals, indicating that domestication had minor effect on the overall diversity of CNVRs. Also, the excess of CNVRs in non-genic regions implies that a major part of these variations is likely to be (nearly) neutral. Comparison between different populations showed that larger populations have more CNVRs, highlighting that CNVRs are, like other genetic variation such as SNPs and microsatellites, reflecting demographic history rather than phenotypic diversity.


CNVRs in pigs are enriched for genes related to sensory perception, neurological process, and response to stimulus. The majority of CNVRs ascertained in domestic pigs are also variable in wild boars, suggesting that the domestication of the pig did not result in a change in CNVRs in domesticated pigs. The majority of variable regions were found to reflect demographic patterns rather than phenotypic.

Structural variation; Copy number variation; Next generation sequencing data; Read depth method