Elena Pecchioli

Università degli Studi di Urbino "Carlo Bo", Urbino, The Marches, Italy

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Publications (31)87.07 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The holm oak plays a relevant role in the functioning of Mediterranean forests. In the area north of Garda Lake, Italian Prealps, holm oak populations are at the northernmost edge of their distribution. Being peripheral, these populations are of particular interest for ecological, evolutionary and conservation studies. Through an explicit individual‐based landscape genetics approach, we addressed the following questions: (1) are levels of genetic variation reduced in these marginal populations compared with central populations?; (2) despite the narrow geographical scale, do individual‐based analyses have some power to detect genetic differentiation?; (3) do environmental and/or climatic factors exert a role in shaping patterns of genetic variation and differentiation? Through a Bayesian method, we identified three clusters whose genetic variability can be considered to be of the same order as that recorded in central Quercus ilex populations. Although being geographically very close (P F st and ΦPt values of 0.019 and 0.038, respectively. Geography and phylogeography could not be invoked to explain this differentiation. A redundancy discriminant analysis revealed that relevant eco‐pedological and climatic features, such as soil depth, aspect, elevation and humidity, were correlated with the observed pattern of differentiation. Toblino was ecologically separated from the other clusters, as it lies on deep soil with subhumid conditions. The differentiation of the Brione–Ranzo–Val Busa cluster appeared to be related to superficial soils and drier conditions, whereas the Nanzone–Padaro cluster was differentiated mainly according to its mid‐elevation. Coupling spatial and genetic information on a local scale proved to be effective to investigate the evolutionary and demographic history of peripheral populations. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ••, ••–••.
    Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 01/2012; 107(2). · 2.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study was to investigate the genetic structure of the Valais shrew (Sorex antinorii) by a combined phylogeographical and landscape genetic approach, and thereby to infer the locations of glacial refugia and establish the influence of geographical barriers. We sequenced part of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) gene of 179 individuals of S. antinorii sampled across the entire species' range. Six specimens attributed to S. arunchi were included in the analysis. The phylogeographical pattern was assessed by Bayesian molecular phylogenetic reconstruction, population genetic analyses, and a species distribution modelling (SDM)-based hindcasting approach. We also used landscape genetics (including isolation-by-resistance) to infer the determinants of current intra-specific genetic structure. The phylogeographical analysis revealed shallow divergence among haplotypes and no clear substructure within S. antinorii. The starlike structure of the median-joining network is consistent with population expansion from a single refugium, probably located in the Apennines. Long branches observed on the same network also suggest that another refugium may have existed in the north-eastern part of Italy. This result is consistent with SDM, which also suggests several habitable areas for S. antinorii in the Italian peninsula during the LGM. Therefore S. antinorii appears to have occupied disconnected glacial refugia in the Italian peninsula, supporting previous data for other species showing multiple refugia within southern refugial areas. By coupling genetic analyses and SDM, we were able to infer how past climatic suitability contributed to genetic divergence of populations. The genetic differentiation shown in the present study does not support the specific status of S. arunchi.
    Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 01/2012; 105:864-880. · 2.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study was to investigate the genetic structure of the Valais shrew (Sorex antinorii) by a combined phylogeographical and landscape genetic approach, and thereby to infer the locations of glacial refugia and establish the influence of geographical barriers. We sequenced part of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) gene of 179 individuals of S. antinorii sampled across the entire species' range. Six specimens attributed to S. arunchi were included in the analysis. The phylogeographical pattern was assessed by Bayesian molecular phylogenetic reconstruction, population genetic analyses, and a species distribution modelling (SDM)-based hindcasting approach. We also used landscape genetics (including isolation-by-resistance) to infer the determinants of current intra-specific genetic structure. The phylogeographical analysis revealed shallow divergence among haplotypes and no clear substructure within S. antinorii. The starlike structure of the median-joining network is consistent with population expansion from a single refugium, probably located in the Apennines. Long branches observed on the same network also suggest that another refugium may have existed in the north-eastern part of Italy. This result is consistent with SDM, which also suggests several habitable areas for S. antinorii in the Italian peninsula during the LGM. Therefore S. antinorii appears to have occupied disconnected glacial refugia in the Italian peninsula, supporting previous data for other species showing multiple refugia within southern refugial areas. By coupling genetic analyses and SDM, we were able to infer how past climatic suitability contributed to genetic divergence of populations. The genetic differentiation shown in the present study does not support the specific status of S. arunchi.
    Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 01/2012; 105:864-880. · 2.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The toxin-producing microbial species Alexandrium minutum has a wide distribution in the Mediterranean Sea and causes high biomass blooms with consequences on the environment, human health and coastal-related economic activities. Comprehension of algal genetic differences and associated connectivity is fundamental to understand the geographical scale of adaptation and dispersal pathways of harmful microalgal species. In the present study, we combine A. minutum population genetic analyses based on microsatellites with indirect connectivity (C(i)) estimations derived from a general circulation model of the Mediterranean sea. Our results show that four major clusters of genetically homogeneous groups can be identified, loosely corresponding to four regional seas: Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Catalan. Each of the four clusters included a small fraction of mixed and allochthonous genotypes from other Mediterranean areas, but the assignment to one of the four clusters was sufficiently robust as proved by the high ancestry coefficient values displayed by most of the individuals (>84%). The population structure of A. minutum on this scale can be explained by microalgal dispersion following the main regional circulation patterns over successive generations. We hypothesize that limited connectivity among the A. minutum populations results in low gene flow but not in the erosion of variability within the population, as indicated by the high gene diversity values. This study represents a first and new integrated approach, combining both genetic and numerical methods, to characterize and interpret the population structure of a toxic microalgal species. This approach of characterizing genetic population structure and connectivity at a regional scale holds promise for the control and management of the harmful algal bloom events in the Mediterranean Sea.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 05/2011; 279(1726):129-38. · 5.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The aurochs (Bos primigenius) was a large bovine that ranged over almost the entirety of the Eurasian continent and North Africa. It is the wild ancestor of the modern cattle (Bos taurus), and went extinct in 1627 probably as a consequence of human hunting and the progressive reduction of its habitat. To investigate in detail the genetic history of this species and to compare the population dynamics in different European areas, we analysed Bos primigenius remains from various sites across Italy. Fourteen samples provided ancient DNA fragments from the mitochondrial hypervariable region. Our data, jointly analysed with previously published sequences, support the view that Italian aurochsen were genetically similar to modern bovine breeds, but very different from northern/central European aurochsen. Bayesian analyses and coalescent simulations indicate that the genetic variation pattern in both Italian and northern/central European aurochsen is compatible with demographic stability after the last glaciation. We provide evidence that signatures of population expansion can erroneously arise in stable aurochsen populations when the different ages of the samples are not taken into account. Distinct groups of aurochsen probably inhabited Italy and northern/central Europe after the last glaciation, respectively. On the contrary, Italian and Fertile Crescent aurochsen likely shared several mtDNA sequences, now common in modern breeds. We argue that a certain level of genetic homogeneity characterized aurochs populations in Southern Europe and the Middle East, and also that post-glacial recolonization of northern and central Europe advanced, without major demographic expansions, from eastern, and not southern, refugia.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 03/2010; 10:83. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The agouti locus encodes the agouti signalling protein (ASIP) which is involved in determining the switch from eumelanin to pheomelanin synthesis in melanocytes. In the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) early studies indicated three alleles at this locus: A, light-bellied agouti (wild type); a(t), black and tan; a, black nonagouti. We characterized the rabbit ASIP gene and identified the causative mutation (an insertion in exon 2) of the black nonagouti allele whose frequency was evaluated in 31 breeds. Phylogenetic analysis of ASIP sequences from Oryctolagus and 9 other species of the family Leporidae placed Oryctolagus as sister species to Pentalagus and Bunolagus. Transcription analysis in wild type agouti rabbits revealed the presence of two major transcripts with different 5'-untranslated regions having ventral or dorsal skin specific expression. ASIP gene transcripts were also detected in all examined rabbit tissues distinguishing the rabbit expression pattern from what was observed in wild type mice.
    Genomics 12/2009; 95(3):166-75. · 3.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The chamois is a useful species with which to investigate the combined genetic impact of habitat fragmentation, over hunting, and translocations. Genetic variation within and between chamois (genus Rupicapra) populations was analyzed in 259 individuals from 16 sampling sites located in Italy, Spain, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Two mitochondrial DNA markers (control region and cytochrome b) and 11 nuclear microsatellites were typed. The principal results of this study can be summarized as follows: 1) high and significant differentiation between almost all chamois populations is observed even on a microgeographical scale, probably caused by the patchy distribution of this species, sharp geographical barriers to gene flow, and drift effects related to recent bottlenecks; 2) historical translocation events have left a clear genetic signature, including interspecific hybridization in some Alpine localities; 3) the Apennine subspecies of chamois, Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata, shows a high and similar level of divergence (about 1.5 My) from the Pyrenean (Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica) and the Alpine (Rupicapra rupicapra) chamois; therefore, the specific status of these taxa should be revised. These results confirm the potential of population genetic analyses to dissect and interpret complex patterns of diversity in order to define factors important to conservation and management.
    The Journal of heredity 08/2009; 100(6):691-708. · 2.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The available mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) data do not point to clear genetic relationships between current Tuscans and the Bronze-Age inhabitants of Tuscany, the Etruscans. To understand how and when such a genetic discontinuity may have arisen, we extracted and typed the mtDNAs of 27 medieval Tuscans from an initial sample of 61, spanning a period between the 10th and 15th century AD. We then tested by serial coalescent simulation various models describing the genealogical relationships among past and current inhabitants of Tuscany, the latter including three samples (from Murlo, Volterra, and Casentino) that were recently claimed to be of Etruscan descent. Etruscans and medieval Tuscans share three mitochondrial haplotypes but fall in distinct branches of the mitochondrial genealogy in the only model that proved compatible with the data. Under that model, contemporary people of Tuscany show clear genetic relationships with Medieval people, but not with the Etruscans, along the female lines. No evidence of excess mutation was found in the Etruscan DNAs by a Bayesian test, and so there is no reason to suspect that these results are biased by systematic contamination of the ancient sequences or laboratory artefacts. Extensive demographic changes before AD 1000 are thus the simplest explanation for the differences between the contemporary and the Bronze-Age mtDNAs of Tuscany. Accordingly, genealogical continuity between ancient and modern populations of the same area does not seem a safe general assumption, but rather a hypothesis that, when possible, should be tested using ancient DNA analysis.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 08/2009; 26(9):2157-66. · 10.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present sequence data of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region from 28 samples from southern Italy (Orsomarso, Pollino National Park, Basilicata and Calabria), one of the last putative pure population of Capreolus capreolus italicus. MtDNA variation in these samples is compared to the one from 243 samples from 17 locations across the Italian peninsula and 41 samples from several populations across Europe. Level of mtDNA genetic structuring as high as the one recorded among the European populations was found among the Italian populations (ΦST = 0.58). The high ΦST value between the southern and central populations and the other Italian samples (ΦST = 0.59) together with the occurrence of unique haplotypes supports the assignment of these samples to their own subspecies, C. c. italicus. However, the population from Orsomarso also includes mtDNA haplotypes genealogically related to ones occurring in northern and central Apennine populations. This finding could result from incomplete lineage sorting or from unrecorded translocations of animals into the Orsomarso population. The management implications of this finding are discussed.
    Italian Journal of Zoology - ITAL J ZOOLOGY. 01/2009; 76(1):16-27.
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    ABSTRACT: We describe a new method for the sex determination of tissue originating from Oryctolagus cuniculus (European rabbit), Lepus europaeus (European brown hare) and Lepus timidus (mountain hare) based on PCR-RFLP analysis of point mutations that differentiate the ZFX and ZFY gene sequences. Among several applications, this PCR-RFLP method could be used to investigate gender ratio and evaluate the population dynamics of these species using samples collected when sex cannot be identified.
    Molecular Ecology Resources 11/2008; 8(6):1294-6. · 7.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging tick-borne pathogen with both veterinary and human health implications. The role of wildlife hosts for this pathogen are not well defined, even thought roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) has been suggested to contribute to the occurrence of this tick-borne diseases in Europe. Therefore the aim of the present study was to investigate the potential role of this ungulate species as a reservoir of human pathogenic strains of A. phagocytophilum in a tick-borne diseases endemic area in Northeastern Italy. Ixodes ricinus feeding on roe deer were collected and analyzed for the presence for A. phagocytophilum by a molecular approach targeting 16S rRNA and groEL genes. The mean prevalence of A. phagocytophilum recorded was 5.11%, highlighting the ability of roe deer to infect the I. ricinus larval stage. The results of further genetic characterization of the strains of A. phagocytophilum herein isolated, based on phylogenetic information contained in groEL gene sequences, showed substantial heterogeneity among sequences analyzed. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the roe deer population of the Trentino region of Italy harbors strains of A. phagocytophilum of unknown pathogenicity for humans.
    Vector borne and zoonotic diseases (Larchmont, N.Y.) 11/2008; 9(2):179-84. · 2.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) harbours some of the most polymorphic loci in vertebrate genomes. MHC genes are thought to be subject to some form of balancing selection, most likely pathogen-mediated selection. Hence, MHC genes are excellent candidates for exploring adaptive processes. In this study, we investigated the genetic variation at exon 2 of the DRB class II MHC locus in 191 alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) from 10 populations in the eastern Alps of Italy. In particular, we were interested in distinguishing and estimating the relative impact of selective and demographic factors, while taking into account the confounding effect of recombination. The extremely high dn/ds ratio and the presence of trans-species polymorphisms suggest that a strong long-term balancing selection effect has been operating at this locus throughout the evolutionary history of this species. We analysed patterns of genetic variation within and between populations, and the mitochondrial D-loop polymorphism patterns were analysed to provide a baseline indicator of the effects of demographic processes. These analyses showed that (i) the chamois experienced a demographic decline in the last 5000–30 000 years, most likely related to the postglacial elevation in temperature; (ii) this demographic process can explain the results of neutrality tests applied to MHC variation within populations, but cannot justify the much weaker divergence between populations implied by MHC as opposed to mitochondrial DNA; (iii) similar sets of divergent alleles are probably maintained with similar frequencies by balancing selection in different populations, and this mechanism is also operating in small isolated populations, which are strongly affected by drift.
    Molecular Ecology 08/2008; 17(18):4053 - 4067. · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    7th International Symposium on Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and on Sub-order Suiformes; 08/2008
  • Conservation Biology 07/2008; 22(3):802-4. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The European wild boar is an important game species, subjected to local extinctions and translocations in the past, and currently enormously and worryingly expanding in some areas where management is urgently required. Understanding the relative roles of ancient and recent events in shaping the genetic structure of this species is therefore not only an interesting scientific issue, but it represents also the basis for addressing future management strategies. In addition, several pig breeds descend from the European wild boar, but the geographical location of the domestication area(s) and the possible introgression of pig genomes into wild populations are still open questions. Here, we analysed the genetic variation in different wild boar populations in Europe. Ten polymorphic microsatellites were typed in 252 wild boars and the mtDNA control region was sequenced in a subset of 145 individuals. Some samples from different pig breeds were also analysed. Our results, which were obtained considering also 612 published mtDNA sequences, suggest that (i) most populations are similarly differentiated, but the major discontinuity is found along the Alps; (ii) except for the Italian populations, European wild boars show the signature of a postglacial demographic expansion; (iii) Italian populations seem to preserve a high proportion of preglaciation diversity; (iv) the demographic decline which occurred in some areas in the last few centuries did not produce a noticeable reduction of genetic variation; (v) signs of human-mediated gene flow among populations are weak, although in some regions the effects of translocations are detectable and a low degree of pig introgression can be identified; (vi) the hypothesis of an independent domestication centre in Italy is not supported by our data, which in turn confirm that Central European wild boar might have represented an important source for domestic breeds. We can therefore conclude that recent human activities had a limited effect on the wild boar genetic structure. It follows that areas with high variation and differentiation represent natural reservoirs of genetic diversity to be protected avoiding translocations. In this context controlling some populations by hunting is not expected to affect significantly genetic variation in this species.
    Molecular Ecology 05/2008; 17(7):1745-62. · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ATIt; 04/2008
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    ATIt; 04/2008
  • MARCO MASSETI, ELENA PECCHIOLI, CRISTIANO VERNESI
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    ABSTRACT: The European fallow deer (Dama dama dama) is one of the most widespread cervids, and its distribution has been heavily affected by man. At present, only one wild autochthonous population is reputed to survive in Anatolia, but its census size is dramatically decreasing. This means that a significant portion of the ancestral genetic diversity of this taxon is seriously threatened. In the present study, a portion of the mitochondrial DNA (D-loop) in 37 D. d. dama specimens from three Mediterranean sites, Turkey, the island of Rhodes (Greece), and the Italian Peninsula, and seven individuals of the Persian fallow deer, Dama dama mesopotamica, was sequenced, and the results from the data analysis are interpreted in light of current archaeozoological and biogeographical knowledge. We conclude that: (1) D. d. mesopotamica is strongly differentiated from D. d. dama, confirming the results of previous genetic studies and (2) the Rhodian populations of D. d. dama, founded by humans in Neolithic times, possess a set of mitochondrial lineages, found in no other study populations. The persistence of these haplotypes is particularly significant because human-mediated processes (e.g. domestication) usually result in genetic depletion and erosion of an ancestral genetic pool. In the case of the Rhodes' population of fallow deer, we hypothesize that, during the foundation of this population, humans unknowingly preserved a remarkable portion of the original genetic diversity of the source population(s). © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 835–844.
    Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 03/2008; 93(4):835 - 844. · 2.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A substantial portion of today's biodiversity is attributed to the climatic oscillations of the Pleistocene Ice Ages. Gradual but dramatic climate changes were accompanied by expansion, contraction, and isolation of populations, promoting the accumulation of genome differences and adaptations in refugial populations and resulting in allopatric differentiation in a variety of taxa. In the present study, partial mitochondrial DNA sequences of the widely distributed European brown hare (Lepus europaeus) were analyzed to test whether the species' present genetic structure is the result of postglacial re-colonization of Europe from Asia Minor (clade A) and the Balkans (clade B) only, as suggested previously, or if additional refugia are likely. Analyses indicated the presence of an additional refugium (Italy, clade I). The genealogic network of Italian hares displayed the tree-like structure expected from refugial populations, whereas central European brown hare haplotypes revealed a clear star-phylogeny indicative of past-bottleneck population growth. This population size expansion, which was confirmed by mismatch analysis, was estimated to have occurred similar to 50-55 thousand years ago (kya). The divergence of clade A* from the remaining matrilines is estimated at 239 kya, whereas the divergence of the ancestors of clades B* and I from A* occurred about 128 kya.
    European Journal of Wildlife Research 01/2008; 54(3):495-510. · 1.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA sequences from ancient specimens may in fact result from undetected contamination of the ancient specimens by modern DNA, and the problem is particularly challenging in studies of human fossils. Doubts on the authenticity of the available sequences have so far hampered genetic comparisons between anatomically archaic (Neandertal) and early modern (Cro-Magnoid) Europeans. We typed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region I in a 28,000 years old Cro-Magnoid individual from the Paglicci cave, in Italy (Paglicci 23) and in all the people who had contact with the sample since its discovery in 2003. The Paglicci 23 sequence, determined through the analysis of 152 clones, is the Cambridge reference sequence, and cannot possibly reflect contamination because it differs from all potentially contaminating modern sequences. The Paglicci 23 individual carried a mtDNA sequence that is still common in Europe, and which radically differs from those of the almost contemporary Neandertals, demonstrating a genealogical continuity across 28,000 years, from Cro-Magnoid to modern Europeans. Because all potential sources of modern DNA contamination are known, the Paglicci 23 sample will offer a unique opportunity to get insight for the first time into the nuclear genes of early modern Europeans.
    PLoS ONE 01/2008; 3(7):e2700. · 3.73 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

307 Citations
87.07 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2011
    • Università degli Studi di Urbino "Carlo Bo"
      • Department of Biomolecular Science
      Urbino, The Marches, Italy
  • 2010–2011
    • Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige (IASMA), Fondazione Edmund Mach
      San Michele, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
  • 2008
    • Università degli Studi di Sassari
      Sassari, Sardinia, Italy
  • 2002–2003
    • University of Ferrara
      • Department of Audiology
      Ferrare, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • 1997
    • University of Florence
      • Dipartimento di Biologia
      Florens, Tuscany, Italy