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11 Chicken Genome: Current Status and Future Opportunities

David W. Burt


Avian genomics has its origins in genetic linkage mapping (Burt and Cheng 1998), but our knowledge of the chicken genome has been transformed in recent years, mostly through the analysis of large numbers of partial cDNA sequences (Abdrakhmanov et al. 2000; Tirunagaru et al. 2000; Boardman et al. 2002) and culminating with the chicken genome sequence (Hillier et al. 2004). These were landmark events in our understanding of avian biology, developmental biology, and the evolution of vertebrates and will facilitate applications in agriculture and medicine.

Chicken research has had a significant impact on fundamental biology and the chicken has been a popular model organism for at least 100 years, for example, with the discovery of B cells and tumor viruses (Brown et al. 2003). Ready access to the chicken embryo using incubated eggs and the ease of manipulation make this system ideal for studies of vertebrate development (Stern 2004Stern 2005). The chicken has been used in many of the classical studies on the molecular basis of patterning in the vertebrate embryo, in particular, the limb bud. In recent times, other model organisms, such as the mouse and zebrafish, have been in greater demand because of increased genetic resources and the ability to manipulate their genomes. The chicken EST and genome programs have removed many of these limitations in the chicken. In addition, new tools such as the electroporation of chicken embryos and the use of RNAi to knock down gene expression are likely to make the chicken embryo a powerful...

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