Markers for key health and productivity traits identified in Ethiopian chickens

A study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), University of Liverpool, the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and partners of the Centre of Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH), has found that birds from two distinct indigenous chicken populations (ecotypes) in Ethiopia share several genetic regions linked to important productivity and disease resistance traits.

This was the first time that researchers have collectively studied genetic data from African chickens known to be genetically different despite belonging to the same species. The findings, published in Frontiers in Genetics, will help support development of healthier poultry.

Led by Dr Androniki Psifidi, Lecturer in Veterinary Clinical Genetics at the RVC, researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the Roslin Institute, University of Liverpool, University of Nottingham, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), studied the DNA of over 700 indigenous African village chickens from two distinct ecotypes in Ethiopia; one from a high altitude, humid region, the other from a lowland arid part of the country.

Using genome-wide association studies and whole-genome sequencing data, researchers found that despite being from contrasting environments, there are significant similarities in the genetic markers associated with production traits. These include putative candidate genes for resistance to infectious bursal disease, Marek’s disease and fowl typhoid, as well as Eimeria and cestode parasite infections.

The findings demonstrate that it is feasible to analyse combined genetic data from different chicken ecotypes, meaning researchers can work with bigger datasets to improve the effectiveness of genomic selection thereby improving the health and resilience of chickens, and efficiency of chicken production in the future.

The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Scottish Government and CTLGH.

Article: Banos, G., Lindsay, V., Desta, T. T., Bettridge, J., Sanchez-Molano, E., Vallejo-Trujillo, A., Matika, O., Dessie, T., Wigley, P., Christley, R. M., Kaiser, P., Hanotte, O., Psifidi, A. (2020) Integrating Genetic and Genomic Analyses of Combined Health Data Across Ecotypes to Improve Disease Resistance in Indigenous African Chickens. Frontiers in Genetics 11:543890, doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.543890

[SOURCE: RVC & Roslin Institute]