The Indian muntjac is believed to have the lowest chromosome number in mammals (2n = 6 in females and 2n = 7 in males). It has been suggested that a series of tandem chromosome fusions from an ancestral Chinese muntjac-like species (2n = 46) may have occurred during the karyotypic evolution of the Indian muntjac. In an earlier study, hybridization signals generated by the Chinese muntjac centromeric heterochromatin DNA probe (C5) were found to be distributed interstitially in the chromosomes of the Indian muntjac, providing supportive evidence for the tandem chromosome fusion theory. In this study, the highly conserved human telomeric DNA sequence (TTAGGG)n was localized by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) on the metaphase chromosomes of three Cervidae species: the Indian muntjac, Chinese muntjac, and woodland caribou. As expected, hybridization signals were observed at the termini of almost every chromosome in all three species. In addition, interstitial hybridization signals were detected in chromosomes 1 and 2 of the Indian muntjac. The observed interstitial telomeric signals appeared to correspond to specific interstitial centromeric heterochromatin sites. These interstitial telomeric signals could represent remnant DNA sequences from the ancestral species telomeres, further supporting the tandem chromosome fusion theory. Furthermore, these observations permit the elucidation of the chromosome sites where breakage and fusion most likely occurred during the restructuring of the ancestral Chinese muntjac-like chromosomes to form the present day Indian muntjac karyotype.

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