The amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) technique has been increasingly employed for characterizing inbred breeds of animals and detecting strain-specific polymorphisms. The majority of animals studies conducted in biomedical research are performed on rodent species, among which laboratory-reared Mongolian gerbils can be included. Despite the wide use of gerbils in scientific studies, their genetics has rarely been studied. Therefore we investigated the genetic differentiation of laboratory bred gerbils by means of AFLP markers. Six EcoRI/Taq1 primer combinations were selected among 13 different combinations to assess the genetic polymorphisms in four stocks of animals: Charles River (CR), Harlan (Ha), Parma (Pr), and Crossbred (Cb). CR and Ha gerbils were purchased from commercial vendors, while Pr and Cb were derived from animals bred in our animal colony. A total of 228 fragments ranging between 70 and 650 bp were obtained. The mean percentage of polymorphic loci across primer combinations was 7.5%. Calculation of genetic distances through application of different algorithms (Nei's, BSI, and Jaccard's indexes) confirmed the poor genetic diversity between stocks. Nevertheless, a differentiation of the Pr and Cb stocks from the more homogeneous CR and Ha was revealed, in agreement with the different breeding derivation and management of the stocks.
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The authors wish to thank Dr. Stefano Allesina and Dr. Stefano Leonardi for consulting on data analysis, Valeria Vascelli for her assistance in animal care, and Tearrah Wilkins for editing the language. This study was supported by grants from FIL 2001 and FIL 2002 to F. Nonnis Marzano and P. Valsecchi.
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