Researchers compare chicken, human genomes

BETHESDA, Md., Wed., Dec. 8, 2004 An international research consortium has found that chickens and humans share more than half of their genes, but that their DNA sequences diverge in ways that may explain some of the important differences between birds and mammals. The consortium's analysis is published in the Dec. 9 issue of the journal Nature.

The International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium analyzed the sequence of the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus), which is the progenitor of domestic chickens. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, provided about $13 million in funding for the project, which involved researchers from China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The chicken is the first bird, as well as the first agricultural animal, to have its genome sequenced and analyzed. The first draft of the chicken genome, which was based on 6.6-fold coverage, was deposited into free public databases for use by researchers around the globe in March 2004. Over the past nine months, the consortium carefully analyzed the genome and compared it with the genomes of organisms that have already been sequenced, including the human, the mouse, the rat and the puffer fish.

"The chicken genome fills a crucial gap in our scientific knowledge. Located between mammals and fish on the tree of life, the chicken is well positioned to provide us with new insights into genome evolution and human biology," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "By comparing the genomes of a wide range of animals, we can better understand the structure and function of human genes and, ultimately, develop new strategies to improve human health."

In their paper published in Nature, members of the International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium report that the chicken genome contains significantly

Contact: Geoff Spencer
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

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