AvBD1 nucleotide polymorphisms, peptide antimicrobial activities and microbial colonisation of the broiler chicken gut

Kevin Cadwell, Sherko S. Niranji, Vanessa L. Armstrong, Catherine A. Mowbray, Richard Bailey, Kellie A. Watson, Judith Hall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The importance of poultry as a global source of protein underpins the chicken genome and associated SNP data as key tools in selecting and breeding healthy robust birds with improved disease resistance. SNPs affecting host peptides involved in the innate defences tend to be rare, but three non-synonymous SNPs in the avian β-defensin (AvBD1) gene encoding the variant peptides NYH, SSY and NYY were identified that segregated specifically to three lines of commercial broiler chickens Line X (LX), Line Y(LY) and Line Z. The impacts of such amino acid changes on peptide antimicrobial properties were analysed in vitro and described in relation to the caecal microbiota and gut health of LX and LY birds. Results: Time-kill and radial immune diffusion assays indicated all three peptides to have antimicrobial properties against gram negative and positive bacteria with a hierarchy of NYH>SSY>NYY. Calcein leakage assays supported AvBD1 NYH as the most potent membrane permeabilising agent although no significant differences in secondary structure were identified to explain this. However, distinct claw regions, identified by 3D modelling and proposed to play a key role in microbial membrane attachment, and permeation, were more distinct in the NYH model. In vivo AvBD1 synthesis was detected in the bird gut epithelia. Analyses of the caecal gut microbiota of young day 4 birds suggested trends in Lactobacilli sp. colonisation at days 4 (9% LX vs × 30% LY) and 28 (20% LX vs 12% LY) respectively, but these were not statistically significant (P>0.05). Conclusion: Amino acid changes altering the killing capacity of the AvBD1 peptide were associated with two different bird lines, but such changes did not impact significantly on caecal gut microbiota.

Original languageEnglish
Article number637
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2017


  • Antimicrobial activity
  • Avian β-defensin 1
  • Gene SNPs
  • Gut bacteria
  • Membrane permeabilisation


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