Genes & Genomics

, Volume 41, Issue 11, pp 1357–1367 | Cite as

Hair follicles transcriptome profiles in Bashang long-tailed chickens with different plumage colors

  • Xiaohui Liu
  • Rongyan Zhou
  • Yongdong Peng
  • Chuansheng Zhang
  • Lanhui Li
  • Chunxiang Lu
  • Xianglong LiEmail author
Research Article


Despite the rich variety in plumage color found in nature, genetic studies on how hair follicles affect pigmentation are often limited to animals that have black and white pigment. To test how gene expression influences plumage color, transcriptomes of chicken hair follicles with white, black, hemp, reed catkins, silvery grey, and landscape plumage colors were generated using Illumina sequencing. We generated six RNA-Seq libraries with over 25 million paired-end clean reads per library with percentage of paired-end clean reads ranging from 96.73 to 96.98%. 78% of the reads mapped to the chicken genome, and approximately 70% of the reads were mapped to exons and 6% mapped to introns. Transcriptomes of hair follicles producing hemp and land plumage were similar, but these two showed moderate differences compared with gray and reed colored plumage. The black and white follicle transcriptomes were most divergent from the other colors. We identified several candidate genes, including GPNMB, PMEL, TYRP1, GPR143, OCA2, SOX10, SLC45A2, KRT75, and TYR. All of these genes are known to induce pigment formation in mice. White feathers result from the lack of pigment formation, and our results suggest that the white chickens due to the recessive insertion mutation of TYR. The formation of black area size and color depth may be due to the expression levels of GPNMB, PMEL, TYRP1, GPR143, OCA2, SOX10, SLC45A2, KRT75, and TYR. The GO analysis of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) revealed that DEGs in our transcriptome analysis were enriched in cytoskeleton and cell structure related pathways. The black plumage transcriptome showed significant differences in melanogenesis, tyrosine metabolism, and riboflavin metabolism compared with transcriptomes of other plumage colors. The transcriptome profiles of the different chicken plumage colors provide a valuable resource to understand how gene expression influences plumage color, and will be an important resource for identifying candidate genes in breeding programs.


Hair follicle Plumage color Gene expression RNA-Seq 



We thank help from lab members, especially for sample collection. This work was supported by the Earmarked Fund for Hebei Layer Innovation Team of Modern Agro-industry Technology Research System (No: HBCT2013090206), and the Science and Technology Plan Projects of Hebei (group recovery and utilization of Bashang long-tailed chicken, No: 15226302D). RNA sequences were completed by Novogene Bioinformatics Institute.


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Copyright information

© The Genetics Society of Korea and Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaohui Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rongyan Zhou
    • 2
  • Yongdong Peng
    • 1
  • Chuansheng Zhang
    • 1
  • Lanhui Li
    • 2
  • Chunxiang Lu
    • 3
  • Xianglong Li
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Animal Science and TechnologyHebei Normal University of Science and TechnologyQinhuangdaoPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Animal Science and TechnologyHebei Agricultural UniversityBaodingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Zhangjiakou Animal Production Technology Promotion CenterZhangjiakouPeople’s Republic of China

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