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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Swaggerty, Christina - Christi
item Pevzner, Igal
item Ferro, Pamela
item Crippen, Tawni - Tc
item Kogut, Michael - Mike

Submitted to: Avian Pathology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/16/2003
Publication Date: 10/20/2003
Citation: Swaggerty, C.L., Pevzner, I.Y., Ferro, P.J., Crippen, T.L., Kogut, M.H. 2003. Association between in vitro heterophil function and the feathering gene in commercial broiler chickens. Avian Pathology. 32:483-488.

Interpretive Summary: During the first week of life, baby chickens are susceptible to bacterial infections. Baby chicks have blood cells that can help them prevent these infections. These cells are called heterophils. The objective of this research was to compare heterophils from two different types of baby chicks and to see which chickens' heterophils were better able to kill bacteria. We showed that heterophils from baby chicks that developed feathers faster were better able to kill bacteria when compared to baby chicks whose feathers grew slower. These experiments are important to the commercial poultry breeders. We have shown that if they use chickens whose feathers grow quicker the baby chicks may be stronger and therefore more able to fight off infections early after the baby chicks hatch.

Technical Abstract: We recently showed that in vitro heterophil functional efficiency in commercial broiler chickens is genetically controlled and may be a sex-associated trait. To further characterize the genetic mechanism(s) of heterophil functional efficiency we wanted to determine if the feathering gene, present on the Z sex chromosome, contributes to heterophil functional efficiency. Heterophils from two pairs of broiler lines were evaluated; each pair contained a fast feather (FF) (lines A and X) and a slow feather (SF) flock (lines B and Y). On days 1 and 4 post-hatch, heterophils isolated from two sets of pure line broilers (A and B; X and Y) were evaluated for their ability to: (1) phagocytize Salmonella enteritidis (SE) and (2) exhibit bactericidal activity against SE. On days 1 and 4 post-hatch, heterophils isolated from the FF lines were statistically (p less than or equal to 0.02) more proficient at phagocytizing SE than heterophils from SF lines. Bactericidal activity was also statistically (p less than or equal to 0.02) greater on day 1 post-hatch in the heterophils isolated from FF lines compared to heterophils isolated from SF lines. These data indicate that the presence of the FF gene locus on the Z sex chromosome contributes to heterophil function and may contribute to the early innate immune competence of a flock.

Last Modified: 07/26/2017
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