Open Access

Biodiversity of 52 chicken populations assessed by microsatellite typing of DNA pools

  • Jossi Hillel1Email author,
  • Martien A.M. Groenen2,
  • Michèle Tixier-Boichard3,
  • Abraham B. Korol4,
  • Lior David1,
  • Valery M. Kirzhner4,
  • Terry Burke5,
  • Asili Barre-Dirie6,
  • Richard P.M.A. Crooijmans2,
  • Kari Elo7,
  • Marcus W. Feldman8,
  • Paul J. Freidlin1,
  • Asko Mäki-Tanila7,
  • Marian Oortwijn2,
  • Pippa Thomson5,
  • Alain Vignal9,
  • Klaus Wimmers10 and
  • Steffen Weigend6
Genetics Selection Evolution200335:533

DOI: 10.1186/1297-9686-35-6-533

Received: 2 September 2002

Accepted: 13 March 2003

Published: 15 September 2003


In a project on the biodiversity of chickens funded by the European Commission (EC), eight laboratories collaborated to assess the genetic variation within and between 52 populations from a wide range of chicken types. Twenty-two di-nucleotide microsatellite markers were used to genotype DNA pools of 50 birds from each population. The polymorphism measures for the average, the least polymorphic population (inbred C line) and the most polymorphic population (Gallus gallus spadiceus) were, respectively, as follows: number of alleles per locus, per population: 3.5, 1.3 and 5.2; average gene diversity across markers: 0.47, 0.05 and 0.64; and proportion of polymorphic markers: 0.91, 0.25 and 1.0. These were in good agreement with the breeding history of the populations. For instance, unselected populations were found to be more polymorphic than selected breeds such as layers. Thus DNA pools are effective in the preliminary assessment of genetic variation of populations and markers. Mean genetic distance indicates the extent to which a given population shares its genetic diversity with that of the whole tested gene pool and is a useful criterion for conservation of diversity. The distribution of population-specific (private) alleles and the amount of genetic variation shared among populations supports the hypothesis that the red jungle fowl is the main progenitor of the domesticated chicken.


genetic distance polymorphism red jungle fowl DNA markers domesticated chicken

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Authors’ Affiliations

Department of Genetics, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environmental quality sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Institute of Animal Sciences, Wageningen Agricultural University
Institut national de la recherche agronomique, Centre de Jouy-en-Josas
Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Sheffield University
Institute for Animal Science, Federal Agricultural Research Centre, Mariensee
Agricultural Research Centre, Institute of Animal Production
Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
Institut national de la recherche agronomique, Centre de Toulouse
Institute of Animal Breeding Science, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn


© INRA, EDP Sciences 2003