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Turkey genome research may help producers breed a better turkey


To the average person, the turkey genome may seem to be a lot of "gobbledygook." But a just-published study in the journal, Genome, will help to ensure that the turkey that we "gobble down" at our Thanksgiving feasts will be a bird that is truly best of breed.

For the first time, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms in California have collaborated to produce the first genome map, or genetic blueprint, of the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

In order to decode the genome, researchers first had to collect and separate the DNA. They then applied chemical processes to the samples to enable them to identify the sequences, or ordering, of the building blocks of the DNA. These building blocks are the four different kinds of bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine) that "spell" out the genetic code within the DNA of each species.

To date, a number of studies have succeeded at mapping the chicken genome, but the turkey remained one of the few domestic food animals for which a genome map was not available.

These maps are essential for applying results from genomics projects in model organisms, humans and other agricultural species. The study entitled "A first-generation map of the turkey genome" that is being published in Genome, a journal of the NRC Research Press, will leverage information from the chicken genome so that it can be more efficiently used to breed a better turkey.

Research into the genetic mapping of domestic animals is aimed at identifying specific genetic sequences that could affect traits of economic importance, such as efficient production, increased reproduction or disease resistance.

Dr. David Harry explains, "Finding a way to breed a turkey with naturally occurring beneficial traits is clearly of interest to the poultry-producing industry. Using naturally occurring variations, it is possible build a better turkey – for example one that expresses a natural genetic resistance to certain diseases. This will enable producers to minimize the cost and potential risks of preventive medications required to safely produce the animals that are being bred for human consumption."

Genome is published by the NRC Research Press, which is the publishing arm of the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI), an Institute of the National Research Council Canada (NRC).

The full article can be accessed online at:

For more information, please contact:

Dr. David E. Harry
Genetic Foundations
P.O. Box 3897
Napa, CA 94558
Tel: (707) 287-7890
Fax: (707) 257-8326

Peter Moens
Department of Biology
York University
4700 Keele St.
North York ON M3J 1P3
Tel: (416) 736-5358
Fax: (416) 736-5731


David E. Harry, David Zaitlin, Paul J. Marini, and Kent M. Reed. 2003 A first-generation map of the turkey genome. Genome, 46(5): 879-889.

Dr. David E. Harry | EurekAlert!
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