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Chicken IMAGE: Improvement of chicken immunity and resistance to disease based upon analysis of gene expression

The chicken is the most important source of animal proteins for humans. However, the poultry industry is facing increasing problems due to the emergence of more virulent forms of pathogens, causing considerable disease and mortality in commercial flocks. Moreover, modifications in current poultry feeding are having disastrous repercussions. Improvements in the quality of food and derivative products will be a major challenge for the century ahead. The unique resources developed from this project will represent a comprehensive knowledge base of great importance. They will contribute to decreasing losses in flocks from mortality and reduced product quality from disease, by increasing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the underlying immune response.

This project aims to create a new generation of tools for avian immunology in the European Union. This will be achieved by building a database of expression profiles for a large set of chicken genes expressed in various types of immune tissues, at different stages of disease development, and with significant functions in the regulation of both innate and adaptive arms of the immune system.
The project will establish:
1) a map of five clusters of immunologically important genes
2) a resource of partially sequenced cDNA clones representing 15 000 transcripts present in a wide range of immune tissues
3) a methodology based on expression profiling using cDNA arrays which can be used for studying disease resistance and susceptibility, improving understanding of the immune response in chickens and developing genetic tests for field testing by the poultry industry
4) a collection of identified and sequenced genes with an important immunological function that will provide a resource for the design of novel molecular vaccines by commercial organisations.

Progress to Date
The analysis of the genes present in the BACs spanning the five clusters has been completed. The results for the chemokines and their receptors are consistent and show the inflammatory CC chemokines and their receptors in chickens. These are reduced in number and probably in function, relative to humans and mice.
Four cDNA libraries have been constructed and have been normalised.
The sequencing of the non- and normalised libraries to identify EST sequences is ongoing.
A specific database for the management and the data mining of considerable information about each clone (sequence, quality, annotation, BLAST results), and a software package (Fountain) have been developed to extend the full coding sequences by primer walk and to assemble the gene contigs.
The project is now in a position to expand the array rapidly, and use the expanded array for analysis of RNA from the proposed animal experiments.

The project included a component of work to identify molecules with immune function on the basis of their expression profiles, as well as by sequence analysis. We have established in the chicken:
a map of five clusters of immunologically important genes with a collection of identified and sequenced genes with important immunological functions, for example a full set of avian chemokines and their receptors
a resource of partially and fully sequenced cDNA clones representing immune gene transcripts present in a range of immune tissues.
A database for the management and data mining of information about each clone and a software package (FOUNTAIN) to extend the coding sequences of ESTs by primer walk and to assemble the gene contigs have been developed. The project has led to the construction of immunologically targeted gene arrays for the chicken, consisting of large numbers of genes selected for their involvement in the host response to infection. We have also provided expression profiles in response to infection with IBDV, Eimeria maxima, MDV and a vaccine strain of MDV.

Classified in ANIMALS

Scientist responsible for the project

17, rue Guy Moquet Box 8
94801 Villejuif CEDEX CEDEX
France - FR

Phone: +33 1 4958 3500
Fax: +33 1 4958 3509
E-mail: or


Project ID QLRT-1999-01591
Organisation Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 February 2000
Duration (months) 42
Total cost 3 700 000 €
Total EC contribution   2 500 000 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project

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