BACKGROUND - Chromosomal segmental copy number variation (CNV) has been recently recognized as a very important source of genetic variability. Some CNV loci involve genes or conserved regulatory elements. Compelling evidence indicates that CNVs impact genome functions. The chicken is a very important farm animal species which has also served as a model for biological and biomedical research for hundreds of years. A map of CNVs in chickens could facilitate the identification of chromosomal regions that segregate for important agricultural and disease phenotypes.
RESULTS - Ninety six CNVs were identified in three lines of chickens (Cornish Rock broiler, Leghorn and Rhode Island Red) using whole genome tiling array. These CNVs encompass 16 Mb (1.3%) of the chicken genome. Twenty six CNVs were found in two or more animals. Whereas most small sized CNVs reside in none coding sequences, larger CNV regions involve genes (for example prolactin receptor, aldose reductase and zinc finger proteins). These results suggest that chicken CNVs potentially affect agricultural or disease related traits.
CONCLUSION - An initial map of CNVs for the chicken has been described. Although chicken genome is approximately one third the size of a typical mammalian genome, the pattern of chicken CNVs is similar to that of mammals. The number of CNVs detected per individual was also similar to that found in dogs, mice, rats and macaques. A map of chicken CNVs provides new information on genetic variations for the understanding of important agricultural traits and disease.