Meta-analyses of genome wide association studies in lines of laying hens divergently selected for feather pecking using imputed sequence level genotypes.

Falker-Gieske, Clemens; Iffland, Hanna; Preuß, Siegfried; Bessei, Werner; Drögemüller, Cord; Bennewitz, Jörn; Tetens, Jens (2020). Meta-analyses of genome wide association studies in lines of laying hens divergently selected for feather pecking using imputed sequence level genotypes. BMC genetics, 21(1), p. 114. BioMed Central 10.1186/s12863-020-00920-9

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BACKGROUND: Feather pecking (FP) is damaging behavior in laying hens leading to global economic losses in the layer industry and massive impairments of animal welfare. The objective of the study was to discover genetic variants and affected genes that lead to FP behavior. To achieve that we imputed low-density genotypes from two different populations of layers divergently selected for FP to sequence level by performing whole genome sequencing on founder and half-sib individuals. In order to decipher the genetic structure of FP, genome wide association studies and meta-analyses of two resource populations were carried out by focusing on the traits 'feather pecks delivered' (FPD) and the 'posterior probability of a hen to belong to the extreme feather pecking subgroup' (pEFP).
RESULTS: In this meta-analysis, we discovered numerous genes that are affected by polymorphisms significantly associated with the trait FPD. Among them SPATS2L, ZEB2, KCHN8, and MRPL13 which have been previously connected to psychiatric disorders with the latter two being responsive to nicotine treatment. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed that phosphatidylinositol signaling is affected by genes identified in the GWAS and that the Golgi apparatus as well as brain structure may be involved in the development of a FP phenotype. Further, we were able to validate a previously discovered QTL for the trait pEFP on GGA1, which contains variants affecting NIPA1, KIAA1211L, AFF3, and TSGA10.
CONCLUSIONS: We provide evidence for the involvement of numerous genes in the propensity to exhibit FP behavior that could aid in the selection against this unwanted trait. Furthermore, we identified variants that are involved in phosphatidylinositol signaling, Golgi metabolism and cell structure and therefore propose changes in brain structure to be an influential factor in FP, as already described in human neuropsychiatric disorders.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Institute of Genetics

UniBE Contributor:

Drögemüller, Cord


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture




BioMed Central




Cord Drögemüller

Date Deposited:

09 Oct 2020 16:30

Last Modified:

11 Oct 2020 02:56

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Chicken Feather pecking Genome wide association study Imputation Meta-analysis Whole genome sequencing




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