Genetical Genomics of Tonic Immobility in the Chicken

Genes (Basel). 2019 May 7;10(5):341. doi: 10.3390/genes10050341.


Identifying the molecular mechanisms of animal behaviour is an enduring goal for researchers. Gaining insight into these mechanisms enables us to gain a greater understanding of behaviour and their genetic control. In this paper, we perform Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) mapping of tonic immobility behaviour in an advanced intercross line between wild and domestic chickens. Genes located within the QTL interval were further investigated using global expression QTL (eQTL) mapping from hypothalamus tissue, as well as causality analysis. This identified five candidate genes, with the genes PRDX4 and ACOT9 emerging as the best supported candidates. In addition, we also investigated the connection between tonic immobility, meat pH and struggling behaviour, as the two candidate genes PRDX4 and ACOT9 have previously been implicated in controlling muscle pH at slaughter. We did not find any phenotypic correlations between tonic immobility, struggling behaviour and muscle pH in a smaller additional cohort, despite these behaviours being repeatable within-test.

Keywords: QTL; behaviour; domestication; eQTL; muscle pH; tonic immobility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chickens / genetics*
  • Chickens / physiology
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Genomics*
  • Genotype
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Immobility Response, Tonic*
  • Meat
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics