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Chicken gene research could aid geneticists

by 5m Editor
4 March 2005, at 12:00am

UK - The news that an international consortium of research teams has plotted the entire genome of the chicken provides useful information for geneticists selecting for traits in many species. This is especially important for traits that cannot easily be measured in the live animal, such as disease resistance.

Chicken gene research could aid geneticists - UK - The news that an international consortium of research teams has plotted the entire genome of the chicken provides useful information for geneticists selecting for traits in many species. This is especially important for traits that cannot easily be measured in the live animal, such as disease resistance. JSR Genetics on ThePigSite.com

"The challenge will be finding beneficial genes, or regulatory sequences, and using them in a breeding programme in a cost-effective manner," said Dr Grant Walling, senior geneticist with international pig-breeding company, JSR Genetics.

Dr Walling explains that, from a production and welfare point of view, the genes involved with the immune system are likely to be the most significant and worthwhile. The main reason is that challenging animals with disease is not an acceptable method of selection. Taking a small DNA sample from blood and running a simple test is a far more satisfactory method for choosing animals with improved disease resistance.

"Identifying genes is relatively simple, but the various controlling sequences affecting the expression of each gene are the key to understanding regulation of the whole mechanism," he said.

"Considerable funds were aimed at sequencing the genome. It will be interesting to see whether similar sums will be invested in the utilisation of the information. Without doing this it is like teaching a child to recite the alphabet but without going on to instruct on the formation of words."

From an evolutionary stance, chickens are positioned between humans and fish and therefore provide an important information bridge. Sixty per cent of the chicken's protein coding genes have mammalian counterparts and several immune-related genes were previously thought to occur only in mammals.

"Some genes are interesting through their absence. For instance, the chicken lacks certain genes associated with enamel and casein milk proteins, which explains differences between them and mammals. Lack of teeth and milk-producing capabilities are examples."

"Other potential areas for genomic improvement in pigs are boar taint and meat-eating quality as neither can be measured on the live animal. However, very limited advances towards these goals can be gained from the chicken genome," pointed out Dr Walling.

Source: JSR Genetics - 4th March 2005

5m Editor