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ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Food and Feed Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #290406

Title: The avian heterophil

item Genovese, Kenneth - Ken
item He, Louis
item Swaggerty, Christina - Christi
item Kogut, Michael - Mike

Submitted to: Developmental and Comparative Immunology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/15/2013
Publication Date: 4/24/2013
Publication URL:
Citation: Genovese, K.J., He, L.H., Swaggerty, C.L., Kogut, M.H. 2013. The avian heterophil. Developmental and Comparative Immunology. 41(3):334-340. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2013.03.021.

Interpretive Summary: The heterophil, a poultry white blood cell, is a major factor in determining the outcomes of infections with foodborne pathogens in poultry. The heterophil controls and directs the initial immune response to foreign invading germs using chemical signals it produces. Initial capture and killing of foreign invaders is also performed by the heterophil through the use of sophisticated lock and key mechanisms to identify and trap pathogens. The heterophil can even produce chemical nets that it releases to entrap bacteria and other large pathogens. In recent times, the effectiveness of the heterophil’s response to pathogens has been compromised and reduced due to the selection of poultry for fast growth and feed efficiency. Recent research has broadened our knowledge of the heterophil in poultry and has revealed new ways to enhance its performance and increase the resistance of poultry to foodborne pathogens.

Technical Abstract: Heterophils play an indispensable role in the immune defense of the avian host. To accomplish this defense, heterophils use sophisticated mechanisms to both detect and destroy pathogenic microbes. Detection of pathogens through toll-like receptors (TLR), FC and complement receptors, and other pathogen recognition receptors has been recently described for the avian heterophil. Upon detection of pathogens, the avian heterophil, through a network of intracellular signaling pathways and the release and response to cytokines and chemokines, responds using a repertoire of microbial killing mechanisms including production of an oxidative burst, cellular degranulation, and production of extracellular matrices of DNA and histones (HETs). In this review, the authors describe the recent advances in our understanding of the avian heterophil, its functions, receptors and signaling, identified antimicrobial products, cytokine and chemokine production, and some of the effects of genetic selection on heterophils and their functional characteristics.