Transcriptome changes underlie alterations in behavioral traits in different types of chicken

Siyu Chen, Chao Yan, Hai Xiang, Jinlong Xiao, Jian Liu, Hui Zhang, Jikun Wang, Hao Liu, Xiben Zhang, Maojun Ou, Zelin Chen, Weibo Li, Simon P. Turner, Xingbo Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


In recent decades, artificial selection has contributed greatly to meeting the demands for animal meat, eggs, and milk. However, it has also resulted in changes in behavior, metabolic and digestive function, and alterations in tissue development, including the brain and skeleton. Our study aimed to profile the behavioral traits and transcriptome pattern of chickens (broilers, layers, and dual-purpose breeds) in response to artificial selection. Broilers spent less time gathered as a group in a novel arena (P < 0.01), suggesting reduced fearfulness in these birds. Broilers also showed a greater willingness to approach a model predator during a vigilance test but had a greater behavioral response when first exposed to the vocalization of the predator. Genes found to be upregulated and downregulated in previous work on chickens divergently selected for fear responses also showed consistent differences in expression between breeds in our study and indicated a reduction in fearfulness in broilers. Gene ACTB_G1 (actin) was differentially expressed between breeds and is a candidate gene involved with skeletal muscle growth and disease susceptibility in broilers. Furthermore, breed-specific alterations in the chicken domestic phenotype leading to differences in growth and egg production were associated with behavioral changes, which are probably underpinned by alterations in gene expression, gene ontology terms, and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathways. The results highlight the change in behavior and gene expression of the broiler strain relative to the layer and a dual-purpose native breed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberskaa167
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number6
Early online date20 May 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 20 May 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.


  • artificial selection
  • behavioral traits
  • chicken
  • domestication phenotype
  • transcriptome profile


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