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Animal Breeding, Genetics, & Genomics

Turkey Genome Being Sequenced Using Novel Strategy

Three groups, led by researchers at Virginia Tech, USDA-ARS-Beltsville, and the U. of Maryland, along with additional colleagues, have begun to determine the turkey genome sequence using "next generation" sequencing.

Turkey is the fourth most popular meat in the U.S. after chicken, beef and pork. Turkey production has more than doubled in the last 30 years due, in part, to the development of products other than the traditional whole turkey. Genetic analysis and the requisite tools for modern turkey breeding have lagged behind those available for chicken. However, the evolutionary relationship between turkey and chicken is now providing cost effective methods to speed the analysis of the turkey genome and provide comparable tools for turkey to those described elsewhere on this site for chicken breeders.

The last common ancestor to the turkey and chicken is predicted to have lived between 20 and 40 million years ago; however, it is known from earlier work that the chromosomes of the two species are surprisingly similar. Now, much more detailed work based on both end sequences and hybridization analysis of turkey bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) large cloned DNAs has closely aligned the turkey and chicken genomes and resolved about 50 rearrangements that are the major large scale differences between the two.

It's possible to obtain the turkey sequence at a much lower cost than was needed for the chicken, bovine and swine genomes for three reasons. First, new next generation sequencers provide much more data at lower cost - however the length of the reads is relatively short. Second, the pre-existing chicken sequence and the evolutionary relatedness of the two genomes allow the chicken sequence to aid in assembling that of the turkey. Third, the high quality comparative map discussed above assists in the assembly of the turkey sequence reads and identifies those regions where the turkey genome differs from the chicken template. This novel approach of assembling a whole genome sequence almost solely from next generation sequencing, along with comparative/physical maps, is likely to set a future pattern for the genomes of other domestic animal species. These efforts have been supported by a consortium of funds from NIFA, USDA-ARS and Virginia Tech University, among others. For more information please contact the NRSP-8 Poultry Genome Coordinators, Drs. Jerry Dodgson (Dodgson@mus.edu) and Hans Cheng (hcheng@msu.edu) .


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