We have investigated the complex karyotype of a living zebra-donkey hybrid for the first time using chromosome-specific painting probes produced from flow-sorted chromosomes from a zebra (Equus burchelli) and horse (Equus caballus). As the chromosomes proved difficult to distinguish from one another, a successful new strategy was devised to resolve the difficulty and characterize each chromosome. This was based on selecting five panels of whole chromosome painting probes that could differentiate zebra and donkey chromosomes by labelling the probes with either FITC or Cy3 fluorochromes. Each panel was hybridized sequentially to the same G-Q-banded metaphases and the results combined so that every zebra and donkey chromosome in each suitable metaphase could be identified. A diploid number of 2n = 53, XY was found, containing haploid sets of 22 chromosomes from the zebra and 31 chromosomes from the donkey, without evidence of chromosome rearrangement. This new strategy, developed for the first time, may have several applications in the resolution of other complex hybrid karyotypes and chromosomal aberrations.
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