Genetic characterisation of Mini-LEWE as resource population for experimental research
The Mini-LEWE, a miniature pig used as an animal model in experimental research, was originally bred in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) for various test facilities. Nowadays, the Mini-LEWE is maintained as a small but special population at the Farm for Education and Research Ruthe (LFG Ruthe) of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover primarily as animal model for transplantation and surgery research. In this study, we performed an analysis of the genetic structure of this rare population, including the start-up population of 15 Mini-LEWE given to the LFG Ruthe from the Humboldt University of Berlin and their offspring. The development of the Mini-LEWE population as well as its genetic relationships and differentiation compared to 155 individuals belonging to four different pig populations, historically related to the Mini-LEWE, were investigated. A comparative genetic diversity analysis in Mini-LEWE showed a nearly complete preservation of the genetic diversity of the start-up population in the offspring resulting in a nearly constant level of genetic diversity during the last 15 years in this population. The Mini-LEWE and the Göttingen Minipig as well, another animal model for experimental research, showed a similar diversity level. Furthermore, genetic relationship analysis revealed the Mini-LEWE as a closed population, separated from historically related pig populations. A great distance was found in Mini-LEWE to the Göttingen Minipig, as well as to Leicoma and Large White. The genetic separation of the Mini-LEWE from these historically related populations emphasized its value as a genetic resource of versatile use as animal model.