Differences in the expression of genes in lame and normal broiler chickens identified by subtraction hybridisation
In the UK, broiler chickens are normally slaughtered at about six weeks of age when they weigh approximately 2.2 kg; this contrasts with the growth of an 'unimproved' traditional strain of bird such as a White Sussex, which would weigh about 800 g at the same age. Lameness, characterised
by abnormal gait, posture and impaired walking ability, can be prevalent in these rapidly growing birds and has been highlighted as a major welfare concern. It is during the later stages of rearing, when the bird is becoming heavy and may be achieving weight gains of over 50 g per day, that
lameness begins to have an economic and welfare impact on the flock and to compromise the behaviour of large numbers of birds. A study was carried out to identify potential differences in the expression of genes between groups of lame and normal broiler chickens using subtraction hybridisation.
The first group comprised lame birds with measurable gait abnormalities, and the second group comprised sound (not lame) birds. Both populations came from within the same flock. After extraction of mRNA and creation of cDNA, subtractive hybridisation was performed to eliminate genetic sequences
common to both populations. The resultant DNA was separated and presented for sequence data analysis and comparison with a large sequence database. Some examples of the subtracted sequences detected are given, and the potential significance of these sequence differences at the individual and
group level is discussed.