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Genetic diversity of local Yunnan chicken breeds and their relationships with Red Junglefowl

Author(s): J.L. Huo, G.S. Wu, T. Chen, H.L. Huo, F. Yuan, L.X. Liu, C.R. Ge and Y.W. Miao

Yunnan is situated in the Southwest China and encompasses regions having high biodiversity, including habitats for several ancestral species of domestic animals such as chicken. Domestic chickens in Yunnan were kept by peoples of varied ethnic and economic backgrounds living in highly varied geographic environments. To identify the genetic background of Yunnan domestic chickens and their relationships with Red Junglefowl, we applied 28 widely used microsatellite DNA markers to genotype 340 birds from 7 chicken breeds and Red Junglefowl indigenous to Yunnan. Among a total of 342 alleles identified, 121 (35.4%) were breed specific, with Red Junglefowl harboring most microsatellite alleles (23). High levels of heterozygosity were observed within populations indicated by a mean unbiased HE value of 0.663, which was higher than the reported for most populations elsewhere. The FIS value of domestic populations ranged from -0.098-0.005, indicating a lack of inbreeding among these populations. A high proportion of significant departures (89) from the 224 HWE tests for each locus in each population reflected an excess of heterozygosity and population substructure. Individual assignment tests, high FST values (0.1757-0.3015), and Nei’s DA genetic distances (0.4232-0.6950) indicated clear differentiation among these populations. These observations, along with the close genetic distance between indigenous domestic populations and Red Junglefowl, were consistent with the primitive and ancestral state of Yunnan indigenous chickens. Protecting the unique variants of these indigenous poultry varieties from contamination with commercial breeds might provide values for improving modern agricultural livestock and breeding programs. Thus, the current study may benefit breeding management and conservation efforts.