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G3 (Bethesda). 2012 May;2(5):527-35. doi: 10.1534/g3.112.002311. Epub 2012 May 1.

Genetics of ascites resistance and tolerance in chicken: a random regression approach.

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Wageningen University and Research Centre, Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, De Elst 1, 6708 WD, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Resistance and tolerance are two complementary mechanisms to reduce the detrimental effects of parasites, pathogens, and production diseases on host performance. Using body weight and ascites data on domesticated chicken Gallus gallus domesticus, we demonstrate the use of random regression animal model and covariance functions to estimate genetic parameters for ascites resistance and tolerance and illustrate the way individual variation in resistance and tolerance induce both genotype re-ranking and changes in variation of host performance along increasing ascites severity. Tolerance to ascites displayed significant genetic variance, with the estimated breeding values of tolerance slope ranging from strongly negative (very sensitive genotype) to weakly negative (less sensitive). Resistance to ascites had heritability of 0.34. Both traits are hence expected to respond to selection. The two complementary defense strategies, tolerance and resistance, were genetically independent. Ascites induced changes to the correlations between ascites resistance and body weight, with the genetic correlations being weak when birds were ascites-free but moderately negative when both healthy and affected birds were present. This likely results because ascites reduces growth, and thus high ascites incidence is genetically related to low adult body weight. Although ascites induced elevated phenotypic and genetic variances in body weight of affected birds, heritability displayed negligible changes across healthy and affected birds. Ascites induced moderate genotype re-ranking in body weight, with the genetic correlation of healthy birds with mildly affected birds being unity but with severely affected birds 0.45. This study demonstrates a novel approach for exploring genetics of defense traits and their impact on genotype-by-environment interactions.


disease; genetic trade-off; genotype-by-environment interaction; heritability; reaction norm; resilience

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