Chicken genomic sequence yields insight into vertebrate evolution

, Ph.D., a Professor in Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden, and his co-workers show that these different chromosome types are apparently subject to different evolutionary forces. Sequences that do not encode for proteins were found to undergo a much higher mutation rate on the microchromosomes than on the intermediate or macrochromosomes, indicating that the smaller chromosomes are particularly susceptible to germline mutations. Interestingly, however, nucleotide changes in protein-coding sequences on the microchromosomes were less likely to alter the corresponding amino acid sequences than similar changes on the larger-sized chromosomes. "This suggests that the proteins of genes on the microchromosomes are under greater evolutionary constraint," Ellegren pointed out.

One-billion nucleotides are found in the chicken genome, most of which are arranged in blocks that have been preserved throughout 500 million years of evolution, says scientist Guillaume Bourque, Ph.D., from the Genome Institute of Singapore. Bourque and his colleagues, in another Genome Research manuscript, reported relatively few rearrangements of these nucleotide blocks between the genomes of the mammalian ancestor and the chicken.

Though numerous, the seventy-eight chicken chromosomes contain only about one-third the amount of DNA found in mammalian genomes. Scientists speculate that the small size of the chicken genome is due to a paucity of repetitive DNA elements. In contrast to mammalian genomes, which consist of approximately 50% redundant sequences, only about 15% of the chicken genome contains repetitive DNA motifs. However, these repeats are often organized into tandem arrays, causing major problems for the final genome assembly, says Robert Ivarie, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics at the University of Georgia. In his Genome Research paper, Ivarie's group reports the identification of several new repeat elements, some of which wer

Contact: Maria A. Smit
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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