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University of Sheffield plays crucial role in sequencing chicken genome

09.12.2004


Scientists at the University of Sheffield have played a major role in sequencing the chicken genome, published in Nature and Genome Research on Thursday 9 December. The chicken is the first farm animal to be successfully sequenced, as well as being the first bird.

The Sheffield team were responsible for determining the sequences of messenger RNAs, which have allowed an international team of scientists to analyse the chicken genome sequence and identify most chicken genes.

The team have also contributed to an analysis of the genetic differences in three types of chicken, which has implications for the food industry. They examined the genomic sequence for a meat producing chicken (broiler), an egg producing chicken (layer), an ornamental chicken called the Silkie and the genome sequence for an ancestral chicken called the red jungle fowl. This research found that, despite many years of intensive breeding, modern food production chickens retain much of the genetic diversity found in their wild ancestors.



Dr. Stuart Wilson, who led the Sheffield team explains, “Completing a genome sequence for a species is only half the battle. Once this is completed, you are left with the task of actually finding the genes themselves, which make up only a fraction of the whole sequence. “Genes produce a substance called messenger RNA (mRNA) which turn into proteins that our bodies can use. Our work involved generating thousands of mRNA sequences which then helped to determine where the genes are on the chromosomes and what proteins they encode.

“This work is hugely important for both agriculture and biomedical scientists, and allows researchers to fill an important evolutionary gap between the genome sequences of fish and mammals that have already been determined.”

Lorna Branton | alfa
Further information:
http://www.shef.ac.uk

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