Open Access Open Badges Research article

Genetic dissection of growth traits in a Chinese indigenous × commercial broiler chicken cross

Zheya Sheng12, Mats E Pettersson2, Xiaoxiang Hu1, Chenglong Luo3, Hao Qu3, Dingming Shu3, Xia Shen2, Örjan Carlborg2* and Ning Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory for Agro-Biotechnology, China Agricultural University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

2 Division of Computational Genetics, Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, Sweden

3 State Key Laboratory of Livestock and Poultry Breeding, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:151  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-151

Published: 6 March 2013



In China, consumers often prefer indigenous broiler chickens over commercial breeds, as they have characteristic meat qualities requested within traditional culinary customs. However, the growth-rate of these indigenous breeds is slower than that of the commercial broilers, which means they have not yet reached their full economic value. Therefore, combining the valuable meat quality of the native chickens with the efficiency of the commercial broilers is of interest. In this study, we generated an F2 intercross between the slow growing native broiler breed, Huiyang Beard chicken, and the fast growing commercial broiler breed, High Quality chicken Line A, and used it to map loci explaining the difference in growth rate between these breeds.


A genome scan to identify main-effect loci affecting 24 growth-related traits revealed nine distinct QTL on six chromosomes. Many QTL were pleiotropic and conformed to the correlation patterns observed between phenotypes. Most of the mapped QTL were found in locations where growth QTL have been reported in other populations, although the effects were greater in this population. A genome scan for pairs of interacting loci identified a number of additional QTL in 10 other genomic regions. The epistatic pairs explained 6–8% of the residual phenotypic variance. Seven of the 10 epistatic QTL mapped in regions containing candidate genes in the ubiquitin mediated proteolysis pathway, suggesting the importance of this pathway in the regulation of growth in this chicken population.


The main-effect QTL detected using a standard one-dimensional genome scan accounted for a significant fraction of the observed phenotypic variance in this population. Furthermore, genes in known pathways present interesting candidates for further exploration. This study has thus located several QTL regions as promising candidates for further study, which will increase our understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying growth-related traits in chickens.

QTL; Indigenous chicken; Growth; Epistasis; SNP chip