Genome of chicken is sequenced, made public

A team led by Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., director of the Genome Sequencing Center, has successfully assembled the genome of a chicken and has deposited it into free, public databases for use by biomedical and agricultural researchers around the globe.

The researchers assembled the genome of the Red Jungle Fowl, which is the ancestor of domestic chickens. Comprising about 1 billion DNA base pairs, the chicken genome is the first avian genome to be sequenced.

Richard Wilson
Richard Wilson

Recent outbreaks of avian flu have accelerated scientists’ interest in learning more about the chicken genome and how genetic variation may play a role in the susceptibility of different strains to the disease.

In addition to its tremendous economic value as a source of eggs and meat, the chicken is widely used in biomedical research. It serves as an important model for the study of embryology and development, as well as for research into the connection between viruses and some types of cancer.

The chicken also is well positioned from an evolutionary standpoint to provide an intermediate perspective between mammals, such as humans, and lower vertebrates, such as fish.

By comparing the human genome sequence with those of other organisms, researchers can identify regions of similarity and difference. This information can help scientists better understand the structure and function of genes and thereby develop new strategies to combat human disease.

To facilitate comparative genomic analysis, the researchers have also aligned the draft version of the chicken sequence with the human sequence.

The National Human Genome Research Institute provided about $13 million in funding to the School of Medicine for the chicken genome sequencing project, which began in March 2003.

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