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Poult Sci. 2003 Jun;82(6):939-51.

Systems-wide chicken DNA microarrays, gene expression profiling, and discovery of functional genes.

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Department of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Delaware Newark, Delaware 19717, USA.


The goal of our current consortium project is to launch a new era--functional genomics of poultry--by providing genomic resources [expressed sequence tags (EST) and DNA microarrays] and by examining global gene expression in target tissues of chickens. DNA microarray analysis has been a fruitful strategy for the identification of functional genes in several model organisms (i.e., human, rodents, fruit fly, etc.). We have constructed and normalized five tissue-specific or multiple-tissue chicken cDNA libraries [liver, fat, breast, and leg muscle/epiphyseal growth plate, pituitary/hypothalamus/pineal, and reproductive tract (oviduct/ovary/testes)] for high-throughput DNA sequencing of EST. DNA sequence clustering was used to build contigs of overlapping sequence and to identify unique, non-redundant EST clones (unigenes), which permitted printing of systems-wide chicken DNA microarrays. One of the most promising genetic resources for gene exploration and functional gene mapping is provided by two sets of experimental lines of broiler-type chickens developed at INRA, France, by divergent selection for extremes in growth traits (fast-growing versus slow-growing; fatness versus leanness at a similar growth rate). We are using DNA microarrays for global gene expression profiling to identify candidate genes and to map growth, metabolic, and regulatory pathways that control important production traits. Candidate genes will be used for functional gene mapping and QTL analysis of F2 progeny from intercrosses made between divergent genetic lines (fat x lean lines; fast-growing x slow-growing lines). Using our first chicken liver microarray, we have already identified several interesting differentially expressed genes in commercial broilers and in divergently selected broiler lines. Many of these candidate genes are involved in the lipogenic pathway and are controlled in part by the thyrotropic axis. Thus, genome-wide transcriptional profiling is a powerful tool used to visualize the cascade of genetic circuits that govern complex biological responses. Global gene expression profiling and QTL scans should enable us to functionally map the genetic pathways that control growth, development, and metabolism of chickens. This emerging technology will have broad applications for poultry breeding programs (i.e., use of molecular markers) and for future production systems (i.e., the health and welfare of birds and the quality of poultry products).

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