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News Article

Variation in chicken interferon genes may account for susceptibility/resistance to viral pathogens

Study aids understanding of the genetic factors influencing innate immunity to a range of viral infections in poultry

A study of different lines of chickens, known to be either more resistant or more susceptible to common poultry viruses, has uncovered dozens of variations in genes with a central role in the chicken immune response to infection.

The findings, published in Animal Genetics, may point to genetic variations that determine birds’ response to infection, to help breed poultry that are resistant to disease.

Researchers from the Roslin Institute analysed DNA from chickens that have been found to be naturally more resilient or prone to avian influenza virus, Marek’s disease virus, infectious bursal disease virus, or infectious bronchitis virus.

Computer analysis looked for variations in the genes linked to production of interferons and other associated molecules.

The team sought to compare their findings with a standard reference genome for chickens, to determine the effect caused by variations in these regions of DNA and how they might be associated with each bird’s response to infection.

In all, their analysis highlighted 60 genetic variations that are likely to influence resistance or susceptibility to one of the four viral infections.

The researchers say further research could involve testing the impact of these DNA variations on chicken cells and exposing these to each of the four viruses in the lab, to better understand the mechanisms involved. This could help determine which genetic variations could be bred into chickens to enable the birds to resist viral infection. The discovery could also inform research into drug design or vaccine improvement to protect poultry against infection.

Article: Mountford, J., Gheyas, A., Vervelde, L., Smith, J. (2022). Genetic variation in chicken interferon signalling pathway genes in research lines showing differential viral resistance. Animal Genetics, advance online publication, doi: 10.1111/age.13233