Turkey genome sequence published
(September 7, 2010) — An international consortium of researchers, including Kent Reed, associate professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, has completed the majority of the genome sequence of the domesticated turkey. The sequence was published in PLoS Biology, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science, on September 7.
In 2008, the research consortium set out to map the genetic blueprint for the domesticated turkey, the fourth-most popular choice of meat in the United States. The complete genome sequence, rapidly acquired using "next-generation" sequencing technology, promises new data for avian researchers and, ultimately, a better-quality product for turkey producers and consumers.
Dr. Kent Reed is part of an international consortium of researchers who sequenced the turkey genome. He recently visited turkeys at UMore Park, the University of Minnesota's outreach, research, and education park in Rosemount, Minnesota.
|To date, more than 90 percent of the domesticated turkey genome has been sequenced and assembled. The majority of data are derived from the 10 largest chromosomes, called macrochromosomes, and researchers in the consortium are still searching for the best route to sequence the remaining microchromosomes. They have already described thousands of genes previously unknown to avian scientists.|
In the short term, the genome sequence will provide scientists with knowledge of specific genes that are important in meat yield and quality, health and disease resistance, fertility, and reproduction. An improved understanding of genetic variation in turkeys may also lead to development of new tools that producers can use to breed turkeys that have desirable texture, flavor, and leanness.
The genome sequence may also have applications in the biomedical field. Kent Reed and another consortium member, for example, are studying the effects that aflatoxins have on turkeys. Aflatoxins are naturally occurring carcinogenic chemicals produced by fungi that suppress the immune system. The domesticated turkey is the most aflatoxin-susceptible species known.
The international consortium spent the last year annotating and analyzing the draft genome sequence, which culminated in fleshing out the intricacies of the turkey’s genetic blueprint as described in detail in the PLoS Biology paper. The research team hopes the integrated approach used to obtain the turkey genome will provide a model for creating gene- and chromosome-level assemblies for other species with agricultural, ecological, or evolutionary importance. The paper is online at www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1000475.