Summary of the AVIANDIV project

Area of this EC project: Biodiversity, RTD project
project start: 01. 11. 1998
project end: 31. 10. 2000

The overall goal of the project is to experimentally evaluate strategic questions relating to the assessment of Biodiversity in the chicken using molecular information that can be measured in various ways at the DNA level. In the proposed project we will examine the level of point mutations between and within chicken populations. This will be relevant as a criterion to assess Biodiversity, and at the same time it will provide the background to adopt a completely new technology of DNA chips in poultry populations. Microsatellites are currently widely accepted as the most powerful tool to characterise Biodiversity at the molecular level. By collecting large samples from various breeds we will establish a complex genetic distance matrix to quantify Biodiversity in chickens based on microsatellites. Although theoretical studies have been carried out, questions related to the sampling strategy, number of markers and statistical analysis need still to be answered experimentally and will be approached in the proposed project. The project will deepen our understanding of Biodiversity not only in chickens, but also in comparative aspects by extending molecular studies of Biodiversity within Non-mammalian species. The major objectives addressed in the project are as follows:

  1. To assess Biodiversity in a wide range of 50 chicken breeds using a set of 25 microsatellites and DNA pools of 50 individuals per breed for genotyping. This information will give insight in the currently existing Biodiversity in chickens, and by including commercial lines, to what extent they compare to unimproved local breeds and the Red Jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), the progenitor of all chickens. Gene mapping studies using microsatellites are already well established in the chicken. Some Participants of our project are far ahead in this technology to guarantee that the most appropriated markers in chickens will be used.

  2. To investigate basic questions to estimate Biodiversity using microsatellites. Based on (1), 10 breeds representing a wide spectrum of the dendrogram will be selected for genotyping of 30 individuals per breed using 50 microsatellite loci. There have been theoretical studies providing estimates of the number of animals per breed to be sampled and number of microsatellites to be used. However, these predictions have not been tested experimentally in chickens to date. This approach will make possible a detailed analysis of the use of microsatellites, their size distribution and frequencies, and be of value to further diversity studies using this type of molecular marker.

  3. To evaluate the level of point mutations in random non-coding DNA fragments for two reasons: a) to examine the feasibility of adopting DNA chip technology for the poultry populations and b) to use it as a criterion for the estimation of Biodiversity between and within chicken populations. To approach this question we will select 10 breeds and 10 individuals per breed, and we will sequence 10 random non-coding fragments per individual.

  4. To develop a new statistical approach to assess Biodiversity. The statistical analysis of data to estimate genetic distances between populations and genetic variability within breeds is not straight forward and requires specific efforts. So far, no general consensus exists as to which of the many genetic distance estimates would be the best for analysis of within-species populations. Experimental data based on (1), (2) and (3) will provide the basis to determine the most appropriate method for estimating genetic distances.

  5. To establish a chicken DNA collection and BIODIVERSITY database from the populations sampled for further research within the Community. A DNA collection of various breeds will extend the basis to search for further genetic polymorphisms identified in the Chicken gene mapping project. The BIODIVERSITY database will provide public access to the information collected and the analytical tools developed within the project.

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