Genomic Analyses Reveal Potential Independent Adaptation to High Altitude in Tibetan Chickens

Molecular Biology and Evolution
Ming-Shan WangYa-Ping Zhang

Abstract

Much like other indigenous domesticated animals, Tibetan chickens living at high altitudes (2,200-4,100 m) show specific physiological adaptations to the extreme environmental conditions of the Tibetan Plateau, but the genetic bases of these adaptations are not well characterized. Here, we assembled a de novo genome of a Tibetan chicken and resequenced whole genomes of 32 additional chickens, including Tibetan chickens, village chickens, game fowl, and Red Junglefowl, and found that the Tibetan chickens could broadly be placed into two groups. Further analyses revealed that several candidate genes in the calcium-signaling pathway are possibly involved in adaptation to the hypoxia experienced by these chickens, as these genes appear to have experienced directional selection in the two Tibetan chicken populations, suggesting a potential genetic mechanism underlying high altitude adaptation in Tibetan chickens. The candidate selected genes identified in this study, and their variants, may be useful targets for clarifying our understanding of the domestication of chickens in Tibet, and might be useful in current breeding efforts to develop improved breeds for the highlands.

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