Gene duplications increase genetic and phenotypic diversity and occur in complex genomic regions that are still difficult to sequence and assemble. PHD Finger Protein 7 (PHF7) acts during spermiogenesis for histone-to-histone protamine exchange and is a determinant of male fertility in Drosophila and the mouse. We aimed to explore and characterise in the chicken genome the expanding family of the numerous orthologues of the unique mouse Phf7 gene (highly expressed in the testis), observing the fact that this information is unclear and/or variable according to the versions of databases. We validated nine primer pairs by in silico PCR for their use in screening the chicken bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library to produce BAC-derived probes to detect and localise PHF7-like loci by fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH). We selected nine BAC that highlighted nine chromosomal regions for a total of 10 distinct PHF7-like loci on five Gallus gallus chromosomes: Chr1 (three loci), Chr2 (two loci), Chr12 (one locus), Chr19 (one locus) and ChrZ (three loci). We sequenced the corresponding BAC by using high-performance PacBio technology. After assembly, we performed annotation with the FGENESH program: there were a total of 116 peptides, including 39 PHF7-like proteins identified by BLASTP. These proteins share a common exon-intron core structure of 8-11 exons. Phylogeny revealed that the duplications occurred first between chromosomal regions and then inside each region. There are other duplicated genes in the identified BAC sequences, suggesting that these genomic regions exhibit a high rate of tandem duplication. We showed that the PHF7 gene, which is highly expressed in the rooster testis, is a highly duplicated gene family in the chicken genome, and this phenomenon probably concerns other bird species.
Keywords: Chicken genome; Evolution; Gene duplication; Testis.
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