Genetic basis of chicken plumage color in artificial population of complex epistasis

Anim Genet. 2021 Oct;52(5):656-666. doi: 10.1111/age.13094. Epub 2021 Jul 5.


Chicken plumage color, the genetic basis of which is often affected by epistasis, has long interested scientists. In the current study, a population of complex epistasis was constructed by crossing dominant White Leghorn chickens with recessive white feather chickens. Through a genome-wide association study, we identified single nucleotide polymorphisms and genes significantly associated with white and colored plumage in hens at different developmental stages. Interestingly, white plumage in adulthood was associated with the recessive white feather gene (TYR), whereas white feathers at birth stage were associated with the dominant white feather gene (PMEL), indicating age-related roles for these genes. TYR was shown to exert an epistatic effect on PMEL in adult hens. Additionally, TYR had an epistatic effect on barred plumage, while barred plumage had an epistatic effect on black plumage. TYR had no epistatic effect on the yellow plumage. We confirmed that the barred plumage gene is CDKN2A, as reported in previous studies. Golgb1 and REEP3, which play important roles in the Golgi network and affect the formation of feather pigments, are important candidate genes for yellow plumage. The candidate genes for black plumage are CAMKK1 and IFT22. Further research is warranted to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying these traits.

Keywords: chicken; epistasis; genome-wide association study; plumage color.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens / genetics*
  • Epistasis, Genetic*
  • Feathers
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Genetic Association Studies / veterinary
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide