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Scientific breakthrough in genetic studies of animal domestication
Date:3/10/2010

The domestication of animals and plants is the most important technological innovation during human history. This genetic transformation of wild species has occurred as humans have used individuals carrying favorable gene variants for breeding purposes. In the current issue of Nature an international team led by researchers at Uppsala University has revealed some of the secrets underlying the remarkable development of the domestic chicken.

The domestic chicken has in recent years become the most important and cost-effective source of animal protein world-wide. In the beginning of the 20th century specialized layer (egg-producing) and broiler (meat-producing) chickens were developed. The approach has been remarkably successful and has led to huge improvements in productivity.

"The strategy to study four different populations of layer chickens as well as four broiler populations allowed us to reveal genetic changes of crucial importance for chicken domestication in general as well as changes that were essential for the development of layers or broilers", says Leif Andersson who coordinated the study.

In 2004, a draft genome sequence of the chicken was established by sequencing a single female red junglefowl, the wild ancestor of chickens. The task required a major economic investment (millions of US dollars) and a large international team of scientists. In the current study the researchers have used new sequencing technologies and a modest budget to analyze pools of individuals representing eight different populations of the domestic chicken and a red junglefowl population.

"This is the first study ever where the genetic diversity within and between populations are examined across the whole genome", says Michael Zody, who did his PhD partially on this project and is now a researcher at the Broad Institute. "The new sequencing technologies allow us to address important biological questions that were impossible to study just a few
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Contact: Leif Andersson
Leif.Andersson@imbim.uu.se
46-705-144-904
Uppsala University
Source:Eurekalert

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