The haemoglobin subunits alpha and beta: Old and new genetic variants in the Italian Mediterranean buffalo
Haemoglobin (HB), the most widely distributed respiratory pigment in the animal kingdom, is among the best characterized oxygen-binding proteins, both at functional and molecular level. However, very little information is available about the genomic features of HB in river buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), even though there are reports in literature confirming the presence of interesting polymorphisms at the protein level in Mediterranean buffalo. We hence address the characterization of exonic as well as intronic nucleotide polymorphism in the haemoglobin subunit alpha and beta in a set of nine Italian Mediterranean buffaloes exhibiting different HB phenotypes. The nine buffaloes were selected from a random set of 398 samples, previously analysed for their HB protein polymorphism, in order to account for both globin variants and the evolution of intron variability within the most common domesticated species of the family Bovidae. All four sequenced clones of the subunit alpha were 1311 bp, whereas the length of the five different sequenced clones of the subunit beta ranged from 1841 to 1960 bp, due to an insertion of 119 nucleotides. Six polymorphic sites were detected in the four amplicons of alpha subunit. Among them, two variations concern exclusively haplotype A, while four sequence variations were found to be specific to haplotype B. Several variations, both in exonic and intronic regions, were detected in the B. bubalis subunit beta. In conclusion, the nucleotide sequence variants observed in this work substantiate the known haemoglobin protein polymorphisms, and an updated protein nomenclature is provided here. In addition, we observed a high sequence similarity in the overall pattern of variation in the haemoglobin subunits, possibly the results of a concerted evolution, with relatively more extensive gene homogenization in river buffalo than in other ruminant species.
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