We investigated potential effects of parent-of-origin specific quantitative trait loci (QTL) in chicken. Two divergent egg-layer lines differing in egg quality were reciprocally crossed to produce 305 F2 hens. Searching the genome using models with uni-parental expression, we identified four genome-wide significant QTL with parent-of-origin effects and three highly suggestive QTL affecting age at first egg, egg weight, number of eggs, body weight, feed intake, and egg white quality. None of these QTL had been detected previously using Mendelian models. Two genome-wide significant and one highly suggestive QTL show exclusive paternal expression while the others show exclusive maternal expression. Each of the parent-of-origin specific QTL explained 3–5% of the total phenotypic variance, with the effects ranging from 0·18 to 0·4 phenotypic SD in the F2. Using simulations and further detailed analyses, it was shown that departure from fixation in the founder lines, grand-maternal effects (i.e. mitochondrial or W-linked) and Z-linked QTL were unlikely to give rise to any spurious parent-of-origin effects. The present results suggest that QTL with parent-of-origin specific expression are a plausible explanation for some reciprocal effects in poultry and deserve more attention. An intriguing hypothesis is whether these effects could be the result of genomic imprinting, which is often assumed to be unique to eutherian mammals.
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