Meiotic instability of chicken ultra-long telomeres and mapping of a 2.8 megabase array to the W-sex chromosome

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The objective of this research was to study the meiotic stability of a subset of chicken telomere arrays, which are the largest reported for any vertebrate species. Inheritance of these ultra-long telomere arrays (200 kb to 3 mb) was studied in a highly homozygous inbred line, UCD 003 (F > 99.9). Analysis of array transmission in four families indicated unexpected heterogeneity and non-Mendelian segregation including high-frequency-generation of novel arrays. Additionally, the largest array detected (2.8 Mb) was female-specific and correlated to the most intense telomeric DNA signal on the W-sex chromosome by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). These results are discussed in regard to the potential functions of the ultra-long telomere arrays in the chicken genome including generation of genetic variation through enhanced recombination, protection against erosion by providing a buffer for gene-dense regions, and sex-chromosome organization.

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