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Transcriptome analysis of genes potentially associated with white and black plumage formation in Chinese indigenous ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)

posted on 18.02.2022, 16:20 by R. Lin, J. Li, F. Zhao, M. Zhou, J. Wang, T. Xiao

1. Plumage colour is an important recognisable characteristic of duck (Anas platyrhynchos), but the colouration mechanisms remain largely unknown. To elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of black and white plumage, the following study applied RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to catalogue the global gene expression profiles in the duck feather bulbs of black and white colours.

2. Black feather bulbs were collected from Putian Black ducks (B-PTB) and black Longsheng Jade-green ducks (B-LS), while white feather bulbs were collected from Putian White ducks (W-PTW), Putian Black ducks (W-PTB) and Longsheng Jade-green ducks (W-LS). Sixteen cDNA libraries were constructed and sequenced for transcriptional analysis. Three comparison groups were employed to analyse differentially expressed genes (DEGs), including W-PTB versus B-PTB, W-PTW versus B-PTB and W-LS versus B-LS.

3. The results showed 180 DEGs between W-PTB and B-PTB, 303 DEGs between W-PTW and B-PTB, and 108 DEGs between W-LS and B-LS. Further analysis showed that 18 DEGs were directly involved in the pigmentation process and melanogenesis signalling pathway. Additionally, the distribution of DEGs varied amongst groups whereby ASIP appeared only in the W-LS versus B-LS group, GNAI1 and ZEB2 appeared only in the W-PTW versus B-PTB group, and KITLG, EDN3 and FZD4 appeared only in W-PTB versus B-PTB.

4. The findings suggested that the mechanism of feather albinism may differ between duck breeds. This study provided new information for discovering genes that are important for feather pigmentation and helps elucidate molecular mechanisms involved in black and white plumage in ducks.


This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number 31702109] and the Natural Science Foundation of Fujian Province of China [grant number 2017J01596].