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Open Access Research article

Partial duplication of the PRLR and SPEF2 genes at the late feathering locus in chicken

Martin G Elferink1*, Amélie AA Vallée1, Annemieke P Jungerius2, Richard PMA Crooijmans1 and Martien AM Groenen1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands

2 Breeding Research and Technology Centre; Hendrix Genetics, P.O. Box 30, 5830 AE Boxmeer, The Netherlands

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:391  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-391

Published: 20 August 2008

Abstract

Background

One of the loci responsible for feather development in chickens is K. The K allele is partially dominant to the k+ allele and causes a retard in the emergence of flight feathers at hatch. The K locus is sex linked and located on the Z chromosome. Therefore, the locus can be utilized to produce phenotypes that identify the sexes of chicks at hatch. Previous studies on the organization of the K allele concluded the integration of endogenous retrovirus 21 (ev21) into one of two large homologous segments located on the Z chromosome of late feathering chickens. In this study, a detailed molecular analysis of the K locus and a DNA test to distinguish between homozygous and heterozygous late feathering males are presented.

Results

The K locus was investigated with quantitative PCR by examining copy number variations in a total of fourteen markers surrounding the ev21 integration site. The results showed a duplication at the K allele and sequence analysis of the breakpoint junction indicated a tandem duplication of 176,324 basepairs. The tandem duplication of this region results in the partial duplication of two genes; the prolactin receptor and the gene encoding sperm flagellar protein 2. Sequence analysis revealed that the duplication is similar in Broiler and White Leghorn. In addition, twelve late feathering animals, including Broiler, White Leghorn, and Brown Layer lines, contained a 78 bp breakpoint junction fragment, indicating that the duplication is similar in all breeds. The breakpoint junction was used to develop a TaqMan-based quantitative PCR test to allow distinction between homozygous and heterozygous late feathering males. In total, 85.3% of the animals tested were correctly assigned, 14.7% were unassigned and no animals were incorrectly assigned.

Conclusion

The detailed molecular analysis presented in this study revealed the presence of a tandem duplication in the K allele. The duplication resulted in the partial duplication of two genes; the prolactin receptor and the gene encoding sperm flagellar protein 2. Furthermore, a DNA test was developed to distinguish between homozygous and heterozygous late feathering males.