Open Access Research article

Comparative analysis of quantitative trait loci for body weight, growth rate and growth curve parameters from 3 to 72 weeks of age in female chickens of a broiler–layer cross

Baitsi K Podisi13, Sara A Knott2, David W Burt1 and Paul M Hocking1*

Author Affiliations

1 The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easer Bush, Midlothian, Scotland, EH25 9RG, UK

2 Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, King’s Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH9 3JT, UK

3 Current address: Department of Agricultural Research, Private Bag, Gaborone, 0033, Botswana

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genetics 2013, 14:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-14-22

Published: 13 March 2013



Comparisons of quantitative trait loci (QTL) for growth and parameters of growth curves assist in understanding the genetics and ultimately the physiology of growth. Records of body weight at 3, 6, 12, 24, 48 and 72 weeks of age and growth rate between successive age intervals of about 500 F2 female chickens of the Roslin broiler-layer cross were available for analysis. These data were analysed to detect and compare QTL for body weight, growth rate and parameters of the Gompertz growth function.


Over 50 QTL were identified for body weight at specific ages and most were also detected in the nearest preceding and/or subsequent growth stage. The sum of the significant and suggestive additive effects for bodyweight at specific ages accounted for 23-43% of the phenotypic variation. A single QTL for body weight on chromosome 4 at 48 weeks of age had the largest additive effect (550.4 ± 68.0 g, 11.5% of the phenotypic variation) and a QTL at a similar position accounted 14.5% of the phenotypic variation at 12 weeks of age. Age specific QTL for growth rate were detected suggesting that there are specific genes that affect developmental processes during the different stages of growth. Relatively few QTL influencing Gompertz growth curve parameters were detected and overlapped with loci affecting growth rate. Dominance effects were generally not significant but from 12 weeks of age they exceeded the additive effect in a few cases. No evidence for epistatic QTL pairs was found.


The results confirm the location for body weight and body weight gain during growth that were identified in previous studies and were consistent with QTL for the parameters of the Gompertz growth function. Chromosome 4 explained a relatively large proportion of the observed growth variation across the different ages, and also harboured most of the detected QTL for Gompertz parameters, confirming its importance in controlling growth. Very few QTL were detected for body weight or gain at 48 and 72 weeks of age, probably reflecting the effect of differences in reproduction and random environmental effects.

QTL; Body weight; Growth curve; Epistasis; Broiler; Layer