Immunological responses to Clostridium perfringens alpha-toxin in two genetically divergent lines of chickens as influenced by major histocompatibility complex genotype

L H Sumners, C M Cox, S Kim, J E Salevsky, P B Siegel, R A Dalloul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chickens genetically selected for low (LA) or high (HA) antibody response to SRBC displayed a correlated change in MHC, so that LA chickens were 96% B13 and HA chickens were 96% B21. The LA line appears to be less susceptible to invasion by extracellular pathogens, whereas HA chickens are more resistant to infection by intracellular organisms. Resistance to Clostridium perfringens is one instance in which the lines do not follow their established trend of pathogen susceptibility, where during a clinical outbreak of necrotic enteritis, B21B21 genotypes experienced significantly less mortality than B13B13 genotypes. A study was carried out to assess immunological differences between LA and HA lines during exposure to C. perfringens α-toxin. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from each genetic line, cultured with or without lipopolysaccharide (4 h), and exposed to varying concentrations of α-toxin (1; 10; 100; and 1,000 U/L) for 2 and 4 h. Evaluation of cellular proliferation, percentage of cytotoxicity, and immunological gene expression was carried out in a series of experiments. Cells isolated from HA chickens had significantly increased proliferation than those from LA chickens at low toxin levels (1 and 10 U/L) and significantly decreased proliferation at high toxin levels (100 and 1,000 U/L). Following exposure to lipopolysaccharide, the percentage of cytotoxicity was higher for LA than HA cells. In both assays, HA cells displayed superior performance following lipopolysaccharide-stimulation. Gene expression analysis of immune transcripts by quantitative real-time PCR revealed significantly upregulated expression of interferon (IFN)-γ, interleukin (IL)-8, IL-13 (2 h), IL-15, and CXCLi1 (4 h) in HA than LA chickens. Cells isolated from the LA line displayed significantly elevated expression of IL-2, IL-10, IL-13 (4 h), IL-16, IL-18, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), CXCLi1 (2 h), and lipopolysaccharide-induced tumor necrosis factor-α factor (LITAF) compared with the HA line. Clearly, these 2 genetic lines display highly divergent immune responses in regards to C. perfringens toxin exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-603
Number of pages12
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Chickens
  • Clostridium Infections
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Cytokines
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Poultry Diseases
  • RNA
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Type C Phospholipases

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