Study of chicken gut cells may aid vaccine design

The colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) has been shown to be expressed in the follicle-associated epithelium cells in the avian gut-associated lymphoid tissue. This was an unexpected finding as CSF1R is typically expressed in macrophages, not in epithelial cells.

The results in studies with chicken cells pave the way for research looking to enhance the effectiveness of vaccines in chickens and at how pathogens invade the body.

Scientists at The Roslin Institute used transgenic reporter chickens to observe the transport of particles and pathogens by specialised epithelial cells.

These bear similarities to M cells in mammals, which have the same function. The key difference is the expression of the CSF1R gene in chicken M cells.

This discovery, published in Frontiers in Immunology and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, paves the way to studies using the CSF1R gene as a biological indicator of M cells to investigate infection and immunity in chickens.

“The use of transgenic reporter chickens and imaging methods normally enables us to observe CSFR1 gene expression in macrophages, which detect and kill pathogens. We were surprised to find that this gene was also expressed in the chicken’s epithelium, but quickly realised that this provided an excellent opportunity to study chicken M cells at a level of detail that has not been possible before,” said Dr Adam Balic at The Roslin Institute.

“We will continue to work on M cells to better understand how they develop in the young chick, whether they can be targeted to improve vaccine uptake and how they are abused by invading pathogens to infect chickens,” added Professor Lonneke Vervelde.

Article: Balic, A., Chintoan-Uta, C., Vohra, P., Sutton, K.M., Cassady-Cain, R.L., Hu, T., Donaldson, D.S., Stevens, M.P., Mabbott, N.A., Hume, D.A., Sang, H.M., Vervelde, L. (2019). Antigen Sampling CSF1R-Expressing Epithelial Cells Are the Functional Equivalents of Mammalian M Cells in the Avian Follicle-Associated Epithelium. Frontiers in Immunology 10:2495, doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02495

[SOURCE: The Roslin Institute]