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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Dynamics of Adaptive Alleles in Divergently Selected Body Weight Lines of Chickens

Pettersson, Mats; Johansson, Anna Maria; Siegel, Paul B.; Carlborg, Örjan


By studying genomic changes over time in populations subjected to strong artificial directional selection, we can gain insights to the dynamics of beneficial alleles originating from the founder population or emerging as novel mutations undergoing ongoing selection. The Virginia lines are a chicken resource population generated by long-term bi-directional, single-trait selection for juvenile body weight. We studied genome-wide allele frequency changes from generation 40 to 53 using genome-wide genotypes from directional and relaxed selection lines. Overall, there were small changes in allele frequencies at individual loci over the studied time period; but, on average, the changes were greater in lines with larger phenotypic changes. This is consistent with previous findings that much of the response to selection over the first 40 years of selection was attributable to utilization of standing genetic variation at many loci in the genome, indicating a mostly polygenic architecture for body weight. Over the course of the selection experiment, the largest phenotypic response to selection was observed in the high-weight selected line, and in this line we detected a single locus where the allele frequency changed rapidly during a late stage of the experiment. This locus likely contains a novel, beneficial mutation that appeared between generations 40 and 45 and was driven to fixation in 5 to 10 generations. This result illustrates the dependence of continued long-term selection response on standing genetic variation at many loci as well as strong, novel, beneficial mutations.


divergent selection; body weight; chicken; artificial selection; selective sweeps

Published in

2013, volume: 3, number: 12, pages: 2305-2312

Authors' information

Pettersson, Mats
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Siegel, Paul B.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Carlborg, Örjan
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Veterinary Science

Publication Identifiers


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