Changes in prolactin receptor homodimer availability may cause late feathering in chickens

Ayako Okamura, Ayane Masumoto, Atsushi Takenouchi, Toshiyuki Kudo, Sayaka Aizawa, Maho Ogoshi, Sumio Takahashi, Masaoki Tsudzuki, Sakae Takeuchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Chicken early (EF) and late feathering (LF) are sex-linked phenotypes conferred by wild-type k + and dominant K alleles on chromosome Z, respectively. Besides prolactin (PRL) receptor (PRLR) and sperm flagellar 2 (SPEF2) genes, the K allele contains a fusion gene in which partially duplicated PRLR (dPRLR) and SPEF2 (dSPEF2) genes are linked in a tail-to-tail manner. The causative dPRLR gene encodes a C-terminal truncated receptor. LF chickens have short or no primaries at hatching; however, their feather growth rate is higher than that of EF chickens. This study aimed to elucidate the molecular basis of the K allele's biphasic effect on feather development. By 3′RACE and RT-PCR analyses, we demonstrated that dSPEF2 gene transcription occurred beyond all coding exons of the dPRLR gene on the opposite strand and that dPRLR mRNA was less abundant than PRLR mRNA. In addition, a 5′UTR splice variant (SPV) of PRL receptor mRNAs was increased in LF chickens. In vitro expression analysis of 5′UTR linked to the luciferase reporter gene revealed higher translation efficiency of SPV. RT-qPCR showed that the dPRLR mRNA level was higher in embryos; conversely, SPV was higher in hatched chickens, as was dSPEF2 mRNA. These findings suggest that the K allele inhibits feather development at the fetal stage by expressing dPRLR to attenuate PRLR function and promotes feather growth after hatching by increasing PRLR through dSPEF2 mRNA expression. Increased SPV may cause greater feather growth than that in EF chickens by increasing the availability of PRLR homodimers and enhancing PRL signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019


  • 5′UTR variant
  • Alternative splicing
  • Antisense RNA
  • Prolactin receptor
  • Translation efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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