Study identifies potential candidate genes for resistance to Marek’s disease

Scientists have identified genes strongly associated with resistance to Marek’s disease in chickens, providing a large number of potential targets for future therapies or techniques to manage the disease.

Findings from the analysis also reveal details about the biology behind susceptibility to Marek’s disease virus (MDV), which could lead to more precise selective breeding strategies.

Outcomes from the research, led by the Roslin Institute, are the first to provide such a large-scale high-resolution analysis of genes underlying resistance to the virus in birds relevant to the poultry industry.

Scientists identified regions of chicken DNA that are seen to play a role in disease resistance. They compared the DNA of two groups of commercial egg-laying chickens which differed in their resistance to Marek’s disease virus. They also analysed genetic information from infected chicks, and identified variations associated with resistance in the DNA of multiple commercial chicken lines. Researchers additionally investigated genetic association with mortality in the infected offspring of egg-laying birds.

The researchers found various DNA elements that had a strong genetic association with resistance to the virus. They say their results provide “a large number of significant targets for mitigating the effects of MDV infection on both poultry health and the economy, whether by means of selective breeding, improved vaccine design, or gene-editing technologies.”

The study is published in the journal Genes and was carried out in collaboration with Hy-Line International and supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Article: Smith, J., Lipkin, E., Soller, M., Fulton, J. E., Burt, D. W. (2020). Mapping QTL Associated with Resistance to Avian Oncogenic Marek’s Disease Virus (MDV) Reveals Major Candidate Genes and Variants. Genes, 11(9), E1019, doi: 10.3390/genes11091019

[SOURCE: The Roslin Institute]