BACKGROUND: Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) that express the F4ab and F4ac fimbriae is a major contributor to diarrhoea outbreaks in the pig breeding industry, infecting both newborn and weaned piglets. Some pigs are resistant to this infection, and susceptibility is inherited as a simple dominant Mendelian trait. Indentifying the genetics behind this trait will greatly benefit pig welfare as well as the pig breeding industry by providing an opportunity to select against genetically susceptible animals, thereby reducing the number of diarrhoea outbreaks. The trait has recently been mapped by haplotype sharing to a 2.5 Mb region on pig chromosome 13, a region containing 18 annotated genes. FINDINGS: The coding regions of five candidate genes for susceptibility to ETEC F4ab/ac infection (TFRC, ACK1, MUC20, MUC4 and KIAA0226), all located in the 2.5 Mb region, were investigated for the presence of possible causative mutations. A total of 34 polymorphisms were identified in either coding regions or their flanking introns. The genotyping data for two of those were found to perfectly match the genotypes at the ETEC F4ab/ac locus, a G to C polymorphism in intron 11 of TFRC and a C to T silent polymorphism in exon 22 of KIAA0226. Transcriptional profiles of the five genes were investigated in a porcine tissue panel including various intestinal tissues. All five genes were expressed in intestinal tissues at different levels but none of the genes were found differentially expressed between ETEC F4ab/ac resistant and ETEC F4ab/ac susceptible animals in any of the tested tissues.
CONCLUSIONS: None of the identified polymorphisms are obvious causative mutations for ETEC F4ab/ac susceptibility, as they have no impact on the level of the overall mRNA expression nor predicted to influence the composition of the amino acids composition. However, we cannot exclude that the five tested genes are bona fide candidate genes for susceptibility to ETEC F4ab/ac infection since the identified polymorphism might affect the translational apparatus, alternative splice forms may exist and post translational mechanisms might contribute to disease susceptibility.