Integrated immunogenomics in the chicken: deciphering the immune responses to identify disease resistance genes

Resistance to infection takes place at many levels, and involves both non-specific and specific immune mechanisms. The chicken has a different repertoire of immune genes, molecules, cells and organs compared to mammals. To understand the role of any disease resistance gene(s), it is therefore important to understand these different repertoires, and the bird's response to a particular pathogen. Our studies focus on the innate immune response, as responses of macrophages from inbred lines of chickens, and heterophils from commercial birds, correlate with resistance or susceptibility to Salmonella infection with a variety of Salmonella serovars and infection models. To map disease resistance genes, we are using a combination of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) from microarray studies, allied with whole genome SNP arrays (WGA) and a candidate gene approach. There are over 500 human genes with the Gone Ontology term "innate immunity." We have identified over 400 of these genes in the chicken genome, and are actively identifying informative SNPs in them. The segregation of 6,000 WGA SNPs across all of our inbred lines was also assessed, which should yield approximately 900 informative SNPs for a cross between any two lines. The Initial focus of these studies is on mapping resistance genes in our inbred lines, but the studies will be extended to commercial flocks.

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