Development and validation of a novel SNP panel for the genetic characterization of Italian chicken breeds by next-generation sequencing discovery and array genotyping

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The aim of this study was to compare the intra and inter genetic variability and population structure of 7 indigenous chicken breeds of the Veneto region, through a novel panel of 64 SNP, each located in an exonic region and mostly on different chromosomes. A total of 753 blood samples from 7 local chicken breeds (Ermellinata di Rovigo, Millefiori di Lonigo, Polverara, Pepòi, Robusta Lionata, Robusta Maculata, and Padovana) was collected and analyzed. Two strains of Polverara (Nera and Bianca) and Padovana (Dorata and Camosciata) were included in the study. The observed heterozygosity ranged from 0.124 (Pèpoi) to 0.244 (Ermellinata di Rovigo), and the expected heterozygosity varied from 0.132 (Millefiori di Lonigo) to 0.300 (Ermellinata di Rovigo). Global FIS results (0.114) indicated a low-medium inbreeding effect, with values ranging from 0.008 (Millefiori di Lonigo) to 0.223 (Ermellinata di Rovigo). Pairwise FST values (0.167) for all populations ranged from 0.020 (Polverara Nera and Polverara Bianca) to 0.193 (Robusta Lionata and Polverara Nera), indicating that the studied breeds were genetically highly differentiated. The software STRUCTURE was used to detect the presence of population substructures, and the most probable number of clusters (K) of the 10 chicken populations was at K = 8. The affiliation was successful in all Veneto chicken breeds. The present SNP marker results, compared with previous data obtained using microsatellites, provided a reliable estimate of genetic diversity within and between the studied breeds, and demonstrated the utility of the proposed panel as a rapid, efficient, and cost-effective tool for periodical monitoring of the genetic variability among poultry populations. In addition, the present SNP panel could represent a resource for a systematic approach with relevant impact on breeding program decisions and could turn out to be a reliable tool for genetic traceability of indigenous chicken meat. Adoption of a periodical monitoring system of genetic diversity is a fundamental tool in conservation actions and should increase the value of typical and niche products.

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