The Pirbright Institute publication directory contains details of selected publications written by our researchers.

There were a total of 2071 results for your search.
Yilmaz A, Turan N, Bayraktar E, Tali H E, Aydin O, Umar S, Cakan B, Sadeyen J-R, Baigent S, Iqbal M, Nair V, Yilmaz H (2020)

Molecular characterization and phylogenetic analysis of Marek’s disease virus in Turkish layer chickens

British Poultry Science Early view


1. There is no current data about the genotypes of Marek's disease virus (MDV) in Turkish poultry flocks, hence, this study was performed to analyse CVI988/Rispens, turkey herpesvirus (HVT) vaccine viruses and MDV field viruses as well as to perform phylogenetic analysis of MDV in Turkish layer chickens.2. In 2017 and 2018, a total of 602 spleen samples from 49 layer flocks were collected from the Marmara, West Black sea and Aegean regions. DNA was extracted from the spleen samples and the samples were analysed by real-time PCR probe assay to detect CVI988/Rispens and HVT vaccine viruses and MDV field strains. Samples found positive for MDV by real-time PCR were subjected to PCR using the Meq gene primers for phylogenetic analysis.3. Amongst 49 flocks, virulent MDV was detected in nine flocks. CVI988/Rispens and HVT vaccine strains were detected in 47 flocks and HVT in all 49 flocks. Splenomegaly, hepatomegaly and tumours in the oviduct were observed in chickens of affected flocks. Virulent MDV was detected in 120 out of 602 spleen samples. Sequencing and phylogenetic analyses showed that MDVs detected in this study were closely related to MDV strains from Italy, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India and China but showed diversity with MDV strains from Egypt and Hungary. Multiple sequence analysis of the Meq protein revealed several point mutations in deduced amino acid sequences. Interestingly, CVI988/Rispens vaccine virus from China (AF493555) showed mutations at position 66 (G66R) and 71 (S66A) along with two other vaccine strains from China (GU354326.1) and Russia (EU032468.1), in comparison with the other vaccine strain CVI988/Rispens (DQ534538). The molecular analyses of the Meq gene suggested that Turkish field strains of MDV are in the class of virulent or very virulent pathotypes.4. The results have shown that MDV still affects poultry health, and the phylogenetic and amino acid variation data obtained will help in vaccination and control strategies.

Xu X, Yang J, Harvey-Samuel T, Huang Y, Asad M, Chen W, He W, Yang G, Alphey L, You M (2020)

Identification and characterization of the vasa gene in the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella

Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 122, 103371


Vasa is an ATP-dependent RNA helicase, participating in multiple biological processes. It has been widely used as a germ cell marker and its promoter has become a key component of several genetic pest control systems. Here we present the vasa gene structure and its promoter activity in Plutella xylostella, one of the most destructive pests of cruciferous crops. Full length Pxvasa cDNA sequences were obtained, revealing 14 exons and at least 30 alternatively spliced transcripts. Inferred amino acid sequences showed nine conserved DEAD-box family protein motifs with partial exclusion from some isoforms. Real-time quantitative PCR indicated the up-regulation of Pxvasa in both female and male adults compared with other developmental stages, and the expression levels of Pxvasa were found to be much higher in adult gonads, especially ovaries, than in other tissues. The putative promoter region of Pxvasa was sequenced and several ecdysone-induced transcription factor (TF) binding sites were predicted in silico. To further analyze the promoter region, two upstream regulatory fragments of different lengths were tested as putative promoters in transient cell and embryo expression assays, one of which was subsequently utilized to drive Cas9 expression in vivo. A transgenic line was recovered and the expression patterns of Cas9 and native Pxvasa were profiled in adult tissues and eggs with RT-PCR. This work provides the foundation for further studies on the gene functions of Pxvasa as well as the potential application of its promoter in genetic manipulation of P. xylostella.


Peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) is known to replicate in a wide variety of ruminants causing very species-specific clinical symptoms. Small ruminants (goats and sheep) are susceptible to disease while domesticated cattle and buffalo are dead-end hosts and do not display clinical symptoms. Understanding the host factors that influence differential pathogenesis and disease susceptibility could help the development of better diagnostics and control measures. To study this, we generated transcriptome data from goat and cattle peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) experimentally infected with PPRV in-vitro. After identifying differentially expressed genes, we further analyzed these immune related pathway genes using the Search Tool for the Retrieval of Interacting Genes/Proteins (STRING) and selected candidate genes were validated using in-vitro experiments. Upon PPRV infection, we identified 12 and 22 immune related genes that were differentially expressed in goat and cattle respectively. In both species, this included the interferon stimulated genes (ISGs) IFI44, IFI6, IFIT1, IFIT2, IFIT3, ISG15, Mx1, Mx2, OAS1X, RSAD2, IRF7, DDX58 and DHX58 that were transcribed significantly higher in cattle. PPRV replication in goat PBMCs significantly increased the expression of phosphodiesterase 12 (PDE12), a 2?,5?-oligoadenylate degrading enzyme that contributes to the reduced modulation of interferon-regulated gene targets. Finally, a model is proposed for the differential susceptibility between large and small ruminants based on the expression levels of type-I interferons, ISGs and effector molecules.

Sanz-Bernardo B, Haga I R, Wijesiriwardana N, Hawes P C, Simpson J, Morrison L R, MacIntyre N, Brocchi E, Atkinson J, Haegeman A, De Clercq K, Darpel K E, Beard P M (2020)

Lumpy skin disease is characterized by severe multifocal dermatitis with necrotizing fibrinoid vasculitis following experimental infection

Veterinary Pathology 57 (3), 388-396


Lumpy skin disease is a high-consequence disease in cattle caused by infection with the poxvirus lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV). The virus is endemic in most countries in Africa and an emerging threat to cattle populations in Europe and Asia. As LSDV spreads into new regions, it is important that signs of disease are recognized promptly by animal caregivers. This study describes the gross, microscopic, and ultrastructural changes that occur over time in cattle experimentally challenged with LSDV. Four calves were inoculated with wildtype LSDV and monitored for 19 to 21 days. At 7 days after inoculation, 2 of the 4 cattle developed multifocal cutaneous nodules characteristic of LSD. Some lesions displayed a targetoid appearance. Histologically, intercellular and intracellular edema was present in the epidermis of some nodules. Occasional intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies were identified in keratinocytes. More severe and consistent changes were present in the dermis, with marked histiocytic inflammation and necrotizing fibrinoid vasculitis of dermal vessels, particularly the deep dermal plexus. Chronic lesions consisted of full-thickness necrosis of the dermis and epidermis. Lesions in other body organs were not a major feature of LSD in this study, highlighting the strong cutaneous tropism of this virus. Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy identified LSDV-infected histiocytes and fibroblasts in the skin nodules of affected cattle. This study highlights the noteworthy lesions of LSDV and how they develop over time.

Hacioglu S, King S, Cizmeci S G, Yesil O, Flannery J, Baron M D, Batten C, Rajko-Nenow P Z (2020)

Complete genome sequence of a lineage IV peste des petits ruminants virus from Turkey, 2018

Microbiology Resource Announcements 9 (15), e01446-19


We report the whole-genome sequence of a peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) from a lamb exhibiting clinical signs in Turkey in September 2018. The genome of PPRV/Turkey/Central_Anatolia/2018 shows the highest nucleotide sequence identity (97.63%) to PPRV isolated in Turkey in 2000.


Following the successful eradication of rinderpest, the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have set a goal to eradicate peste des petits ruminants (PPR) globally by 2030. Vaccination is being taken forward as the key strategy along with epidemiological surveillance to target vaccination efforts and eradicate the disease. PPR is highly contagious and is generally spread by aerosolized droplets and close contact. Currently, two live attenuated vaccines (Nigeria 75/1 and Sungri 96) are in use, and administered subcutaneously to prevent transmission of PPR and protect vaccinated animals. Though the target cells that support primary replication of PPR vaccine strains are largely unknown, it is hypothesized that the immune response could be intensified following intranasal vaccine delivery as this route mimics the natural route of infection. This study aims to compare the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of the two currently available live attenuated PPR vaccines following subcutaneous and intranasal routes of vaccination in target species. Groups of five goats were vaccinated with live attenuated PPR vaccines (Nigeria 75/1 and Sungri 96) by either the subcutaneous or intranasal route, and 28 days later challenged intranasally with virulent PPR virus. All vaccinated animals regardless of vaccination route produced PPRV-specific antibodies post-vaccination. Following challenge, all goats were protected from clinical disease, and vaccination was considered to have induced sterilizing immunity. This study demonstrates that the intranasal route of vaccination is as effective as the subcutaneous route of vaccination when using available live attenuated PPR vaccines.


Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) disease was first confirmed in Tanzania in 2008 in sheep and goats in Ngorongoro District, northern Tanzania, and is now endemic in this area. This study aimed to characterise PPR disease in pastoralist small ruminant flocks in Ngorongoro District. During June 2015, 33 PPR-like disease reports were investigated in different parts of the district, using semi-structured interviews, clinical examinations, PPR virus rapid detection test (PPRV-RDT), and laboratory analysis. Ten flocks were confirmed as PPRV infected by PPRV-RDT and/or real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), and two flocks were co-infected with bluetongue virus (BTV), confirmed by RT-qPCR. Phylogenetic analysis of six partial N gene sequences showed that the PPR viruses clustered with recent lineage III Tanzanian viruses, and grouped with Ugandan, Kenyan and Democratic Republic of Congo isolates. No PPR-like disease was reported in wildlife. There was considerable variation in clinical syndromes between flocks: some showed a full range of PPR signs, while others were predominantly respiratory, diarrhoea, or oro-nasal syndromes, which were associated with different local disease names (olodua—a term for rinderpest, olkipiei—lung disease, oloirobi—fever, enkorotik—diarrhoea). BTV co-infection was associated with severe oro-nasal lesions. This clinical variability makes the field diagnosis of PPR challenging, highlighting the importance of access to pen-side antigen tests and multiplex assays to support improved surveillance and targeting of control activities for PPR eradication. 


Cattle possess the most diverse repertoire of NK cell receptor genes among all mammals studied to date. Killer cell receptor genes encoded within the NK complex and killer cell Ig-like receptor genes encoded within the leukocyte receptor complex have both been expanded and diversified. Our previous studies identified two divergent and polymorphic KLRA alleles within the NK complex in the Holstein-Friesian breed of dairy cattle. By examining a much larger cohort and other ruminant species, we demonstrate the emergence and fixation of two KLRA allele lineages (KLRA*01 and -*02) at a single locus during ruminant speciation. Subsequent recombination events between these allele lineages have increased the frequency of KLRA*02 extracellular domains. KLRA*01 and KLRA*02 transcription levels contrasted in response to cytokine stimulation, whereas homozygous animals consistently transcribed higher levels of KLRA, regardless of the allele lineage. KLRA*02 mRNA levels were also generally higher than KLRA*01. Collectively, these data point toward alternative functional roles governed by KLRA genotype and allele lineage. On a background of high genetic diversity of NK cell receptor genes, this KLRA allele fixation points to fundamental and potentially differential function roles.


Marek’s disease is a major scourge challenging poultry health worldwide. It is caused by the highly contagious Marek’s disease virus (MDV), an alphaherpesvirus. Here, we showed that, similar to other members of its Herpesviridae family, MDV also presents a complex landscape of splicing events, most of which are uncharacterised and/or not annotated. Quite strikingly, and although the biological relevance of this fact is unknown, we found that a number of viral splicing isoforms are strain-specific, despite the close sequence similarity of the strains considered: very virulent RB-1B and vaccine CVI-988. We validated our findings by devising an assay that discriminated infections caused by the two strains in chicken embryonic fibroblasts on the basis of the presence of some RNA species. To our knowledge, this study is the first to accomplish such a result, emphasizing how relevant a comprehensive picture of the viral transcriptome is to fully understand viral pathogenesis.

Rosen B D, Bickhart D M, Schnabel R D, Koren S, Elsik C G, Tseng E, Rowan T N, Low W Y, Zimin A, Couldrey C, Hall R, Li W, Rhie A, Ghurye J, McKay S D, Thibaud-Nissen F, Hoffman J, Murdoch B M, Snelling W M, McDaneld T G, Hammond J A, Schwartz J C, Nandolo W, Hagen D E, Dreischer C, Schultheiss S J, Schroeder S G, Phillippy A M, Cole J B, Van Tassell C P, Liu G, Smith T P L, Medrano J F (2020)

De novo assembly of the cattle reference genome with single-molecule sequencing

GigaScience 19 (3), giaa021


Major advances in selection progress for cattle have been made following the introduction of genomic tools over the past 10-12 years. These tools depend upon the Bos taurus reference genome (UMD3.1.1), which was created using now-outdated technologies and is hindered by a variety of deficiencies and inaccuracies. We present the new reference genome for cattle, ARS-UCD1.2, based on the same animal as the original to facilitate transfer and interpretation of results obtained from the earlier version, but applying a combination of modern technologies in a de novo assembly to increase continuity, accuracy, and completeness. The assembly includes 2.7 Gb and is >250x more continuous than the original assembly, with contig N50 >25 Mb and L50 of 32. We also greatly expanded supporting RNA-based data for annotation that identifies 30,396 total genes (21,039 protein coding). The new reference assembly is accessible in annotated form for public use. We demonstrate that improved continuity of assembled sequence warrants the adoption of ARS-UCD1.2 as the new cattle reference genome and that increased assembly accuracy will benefit future research on this species.


Filter Publications

Trim content

® The Pirbright Institute 2020 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.