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Chicken genome analysis unlocks secrets of mammalian and bird evolution

U.SAn international consortium of researchers, including a geneticist at the University of California, Davis, uncovered a treasure trove of data when they analyzed the recently sequenced chicken genome, a development that will benefit research in basic biology and medicine for years to come.

Their analysis of the chicken genome -- the first genome of a livestock or bird species to be sequenced -- will appear in the Dec. 9 issue of the journal Nature.

"The draft sequence of the chicken genome and the findings provided in this first-level analysis truly revolutionize what research can be accomplished with this agriculturally and biomedically important species," said Mary Delany, a geneticist in UC Davis' Department of Animal Science and a co-author and a coordinator for the analysis.

"Before the genome was sequenced, we as researchers were essentially 'blind', but now we are able to 'see' the genome and more easily explore the mechanisms by which it operates," said Delany, an authority on the biology and genetics of the chicken. She noted that this new information will allow researchers to better understand the genetic and physical differences that occur in chickens and to develop genetically customized chicken strains that will serve as useful research models.

Detailed information about the chicken genome is considered particularly valuable to researchers because the chicken, in evolutionary terms, is a rather distant relative to humans and other mammals -- positioned between humans and fish. The sequencing of the chicken genome now equips researchers to explore how birds and mammals differ and how their chromosomal structure and protein content have evolved.

Some of the particularly interesting findings yielded by the analysis of the chicken genome include:

  • About 60 percent of the protein-coding genes in the chicken genome have counterparts in the human genome.

  • Several immune-related gen
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