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Research Projects

Jensen Lab: Domestication genes – effects on behaviour and phenotypes of chickens

Jensen Lab: Behaviour genetics of dogs

Jensen Lab: Transgenerational epigenetic effects of stress

                      Early experiences

Jensen/ Wright Lab: QTL-mapping of behaviour in chickens

Jensen Lab: Correlated selection responses during domestication in chickens

Altimiras Lab: Cardiovascular development in broiler chickens

Altimiras Lab: Role of thermoTRP channels during egg incubation

Wright Lab: Genetic basis of sexual ornaments, fecundity and bone allocation

Wright Lab: Genetic basis of feralisation

Wright Lab: Genetic basis of Domestication

Wright Lab: Genetic basis of brain size evolution and domestication

Domestication genes – effects on behaviour and phenotypes of chickens

We study the effects of specific genes, where locus or specific mutations cause suspicion that they are involved in shaping the domestic phenotype. At present we work particularly with AVPR1a (associated with social behaviour), PMEL17 (loss of pigmentation and pleiotropic effects on behaviour), TSHR (unknown phenotype but a selected mutation fixed in domesticated chickens, and ADRA2C (also unknown phenotype, but in a selective sweep)

Key publications:

WIREN, A., U. GUNNARSSON, L. ANDERSSON and P. JENSEN, 2009 Domestication-related genetic effects on social behavior in chickens - Effects of genotype at a major growth quantitative trait locus. Poult Sci 88: 1162-1166.

Karlsson, A.-C. et al., 2011. Genotype on the pigmentation regulating PMEL17 gene affects behavior in chickens raised without physical contact with conspecifics. Behavior Genetics, 41(2), pp.312–322.

Wiren, A., Wright, D. & Jensen, P., 2013. Domestication-related variation in social preferences in chickens is affected by genotype on a growth QTL. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 12(3), pp.330–337. Available at: http://eutils.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/eutils/elink.fcgi?dbfrom=pubmed&id=23331324&retmode=ref&cmd=prlinks.

Behaviour genetics of dogs

Using large populations of dogs combined with databases on pedigree data, we aim to map genetic loci involved in causing within- and between breed behaviour differences. We have studied a population of more than 500 laboratory beagles, and are compiling data from Swedish labradors. This is combined with developing new methods for performing large scale behavioural phenotyping of dogs.

Key publications:

None at the time, since the dog projects are still in their early stages.

Transgenerational epigenetic effects of stress

We examine the effects of short- or longterm stress on the behaviour and gene expression of chickens. In particular, we are interested in methylation – its effects on gene expression and behaviour, its transgenerational properties, and its role in shaping domestic phenotypes.

Key publications:

LINDQVIST, C., A. M. JANCSAK, D. NäTT, I. BARANOWSKA, N. LINDQVIST et al., 2007 Transmission of stress-induced learning impairment and associated brain gene expression from parents to offspring in chickens. PLoS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0000364

NäTT, D., N. LINDQVIST, H. STRANNEHEIM, J. LUNDEBERG, P. A. TORJESEN et al., 2009 Inheritance of Acquired Behaviour Adaptations and Brain Gene Expression in Chickens. PLoS ONE 4: e6405.

Early experiences

We study the effects of events occurring during embryology or shortly after hatch/birth on later behaviour and stress coping ability in chickens and dogs. This involves hormone studies and responses to various types of experiences, such as maternal quality in dogs, and nutritional stress in chickens.

Key references:

Goerlich, V.C. et al., 2012. Transgenerational effects of early experience on behavioral, hormonal and gene expression responses to acute stress in the precocial chicken. Hormones and Behavior, 61(5), pp.711–718.

Foyer, P. et al., 2014. Behaviour and experiences of dogs during the first year of life predict the outcome in        a later temperament test. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 155, pp.93–100. 

QTL-mapping of behaviour in chickens

Using a large-scale inter-cross between red junglefowl and White Leghorn, we utilise quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping methods to locate loci associated with domestication. By comparing these loci with the selective sweep map generated by Leif Anderssons group in Uppsala (close collaborators) the mapping brings us close to the causative mutations.

Key publications:

SCHüTZ, K., S. KERJE, Ö. CARLBORG, L. JACOBSSON, L. ANDERSSON et al., 2002 QTL analysis of a red junglefowl x White Leghorn intercross reveals trade-off in resource allocation between behaviour and production traits. Behavior genetics 32: 423-433.

WRIGHT, D., S. KERJE, H. BRANDSTROM, K. SCHUTZ, A. KINDMARK et al., 2008 The genetic architecture of a female sexual ornament Evolution 62: 86-98.

RUBIN, C.-J., M. C. ZODY, J. ERIKSSON, J. R. S. MEADOWS, E. SHERWOOD et al., 2010 Whole genome resequencing reveals loci under selection during chicken domestication. Nature 464: 587-593

 WRIGHT, D., C.-J. RUBIN, A. MARTINEZ-BARRIO, K. SCHüTZ, S. KERJE et al., 2010 The genetic architecture of domestication in the chicken: Effects of pleiotropy and linkage. Molecular Ecology 19: 5140-5156.

Correlated selection responses during domestication in chickens

Starting from an outbred population of red junglefowl, we select lines based on their fearfulness towards humans. Within these lines we study correlated responses in activity, social behaviour, reproduction and gene expression.

 Key publications:

CAMPLER, M., M. JöNGREN and P. JENSEN, 2009 Fearfulness in red junglefowl and domesticated White Leghorn chickens. Behavioural Processes 81: 39-43.

JöNGREN, M., J. WESTANDER, D. NäTT and P. JENSEN, 2010 Brain gene expression in relation to fearfulness in female red junglefowl (Gallus gallus). Genes, Brain and Behavior 9: 751-758.

EKLUND, B., and P. JENSEN, 2011 Domestication effects on behavioural synchronization and individual distances in chickens (Gallus gallus). Behavioural Processes 86: 250-256

Cardiovascular Development in broiler chickens

Research in the Cardiovascular Development Lab is concerned with studying the genetic and physiological mechanisms of cardiac growth and adrenergic regulation in a fast-growing chicken strain prone to develop cardiac failure and hypertension. Because these processes are altered by prenatal stress, the ultimate goal of the studies is to manipulate the cardiovascular phenotype and potentially alleviate or delay the onset of dysfunction.

Role of thermoTRP channels during egg incubation

In 2008 we also started a new line of research to identify the molecular components that regulate how adult birds supply heat and regulate egg temperature during natural incubation. The candidate molecules are a subfamily of transient receptor potential channels (TRP), the thermoTRPs and we have analyzed the existence and expression of TRPV1, V3, V4, M8 and A1 in the skin of the brood patch during natural incubation in red junglefowl and zebrafinches.

Genetics of sexual ornaments, fecundity and bone allocation

As well as studying sexual ornaments for size, other aspects (including colour and morphology) can be analysed using QTL and eQTL methods. In addition, classic mutations affecting the comb (pea comb mutation, rose comb mutation, etc) can also be mapped, with the possibility of mutation identification far greater in these cases. By identifying such mutations and the genes that they affect, the architecture of these traits can be looked at in greater detail than is often possible with conventional QTL analysis, whilst over-lapping regions between such mutation and QTL analyses can also aid in the discovery of quantitative trait nucleotides (QTNs). To date we have used this method to identify that the genes HAO1 and BMP2 appear to modify comb size in the domestic chicken, with these genes also having potentially pleiotropic effects on fecundity traits. We have subsequently expanded the number of candidates for this sexual ornament using genome-wide eQTL scans to identify five more loci. By studying the comb, which is primarily based on collagen deposits, my lab has now also become interested in the genetics of bone allocation. Comb mass reflects bone allocation and egg production in chickens, and many of the loci affecting comb mass, also appear to be either linked or pleiotropic with loci affecting bone allocation or fecundity.

key publications

Johnsson et al. 2014. The role of pleiotropy and linkage in genes affecting a sexual ornament and bone allocation in the chicken. Molecular Ecology 23 (9). 2275-2286

Johnsson et al. 2012. A sexual ornament is affected by pleiotropic alleles at HAO1 and BMP2, selected during domestication. PloS Genetics. 8. e1002914.

Wright et al. 2009. Copy number variation in intron 1 of SOX5 causes the pea comb phenotype in chickens. PLoS Genetics. 5. e1000512

Wright et al. 2008. the genetic architecture of a female sexual ornament. Evolution. 62: 86-98

Genetics of feralisation

Chickens have long been present on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, with Red Junglefowl birds originally brought over by colonists in 1200AD. Subsequently, re-introductions have also occurred. During hurricanes Ewa and Iniki in 1982 and 1992, large numbers of domestic birds were released and subsequently hybridised with the RJF reservoir population. In collaboration with Dr. Eben Gering, my lab has been looking at the genetic changes that act on the genome during this feralisation process.

key references

Gering et al. 2015. Mixed Ancestry and admixture in Kauai's feral chickens: invasion of domestic genes into ancient Red Junglefowl reservoirs. Molecular Ecology (advanced online early).

Genetics of domestication

Domestication has been central to the advent of modern civilization, yet the underlying genetics still remain opaque. Most importantly, despite similar changes seen in numerous species, it is not clear if these are acting pleiotropically, or whether the changes are driven by linkage ‘modules’. We have shown to date that domestication appears to have favoured 'modules', with each module consisting of multiple loci that influence only one or two traits, though potentially surrounding more pleiotropic loci.

key publication

Wright et al. 2010. The genetic architecture of domestication in the chicken: effects of pleiotropy and linkage. Molecular Ecology 19: 5140-5156


Responsible for this page: Per Jensen
Last updated: 04/07/15