Quantitative trait loci mapping of sexual maturity traits applied to chicken breeding
Podisi, Baitsi Kingsley
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Many phenotypes are controlled by factors which include the genes, the environment, interactions between genes and interaction between the genotypes and the environment. Great strides have been made to understand how these various factors affect traits of agricultural, medical and environmental importance. The chicken is regarded as a model organism whose study would not only assist efforts towards increased agricultural productivity but also provide insight into the genetic determination of traits with potential application in understanding human health and disease. Detection of genomic regions or loci responsible for controlling quantitative traits (QTL) in poultry has focussed mainly on growth and production traits with limited information on reproductive traits. Most of the reported results have used additive-dominance models which are easy to implement because they ignore epistatic gene action despite indications that it may be important for traits with low heritability and high heterosis. The thesis presents results on the detection of loci and genetic mechanisms involved in sexual maturity traits through modelling both additive-dominance gene actions and epistasis. The study was conducted on an F2 broiler x White Leghorn layer cross for QTL detection for age, weight, abdominal fat, ovary weight, oviduct weight, comb weight, number of ovarian yellow follicles, a score for the persistence of the right oviduct and bone density. In addition, body weight QTL at 3, 6, 12, 24, 48 and 72 weeks of age, QTL for growth rate between the successive ages and QTL for the parameters of the growth curve were also detected. Most of the QTL for traits at sexual maturity acted additively. A few of the QTL explained a modest proportion of the phenotypic variation with most of the QTL explaining a small component of the cumulative proportion of the variation explained by the QTL. Body weight QTL were critical in determining the attainment of puberty. The broiler allele had positive effects on weight at first egg and negative effects on age at first egg. Most QTL affecting weight at first egg overlapped with QTL for age at first egg and for early growth rate (6-9 weeks) suggesting that growth rate QTL are intimately related to the onset of puberty. Specific QTL for early and adult growth were detected but most QTL had varying influence on growth throughout life. Chromosome 4 harboured most of QTL for the assessed traits which explained the highest proportion of the phenotypic variation in the traits confirming its critical role in influencing traits of economic importance. There was no evidence for epistasis for almost all the studied traits. Evidence for role of epistasis was significant for ovary weight and suggestive for both growth rate and abdominal fat.