Cellular Events During Coccidial Infection in Chickens
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Avian coccidiosis is caused by the intestinal protozoa Eimeria. The parasite's site of infection in the intestine is site specific. Eimeria acervulina mainly affects the duodenum, E. maxima the jejunum, and E. tenella the ceca. Lesions in the intestinal mucosa cause reduced feed efficiency and body weight gain in Eimeria-challenged chickens. My previous studies showed that the growth reduction may be due to changes in expression of digestive enzymes and nutrient transporters in the intestine. This can also lead to diminished intracellular pools of nutrients and inhibit pathogen replication. In this dissertation, further analysis of cellular events was performed. Expression of host defense peptides (HDPs), apoptosis and autophagy related genes were examined in Eimeria challenged broilers. The results showed that upon Eimeria infection, LEAP2 was consistently downregulated in the target tissues, while the avian beta-defensins (AvBDs) showed many variations in expression patterns. Downregulation of LEAP2 may be a mechanism for Eimeria to combat the host defense system, and to promote its survival inside the host cell. The in situ hybridization results showed that LEAP2 was expressed only along the villus in the small intestine and not in the crypt. This is the first time LEAP2 has been localized to epithelial cells of the chicken intestine. Eimeria infection can also induce an anti-apoptotic and anti-autophagy state in the host cells. This condition can be both favorable and unfavorable to parasite survival and replication inside the host cell. A comparison of gene expression between Ross and Eimeria resistant Fayoumi (line M5.1 and M15.2) chickens challenged with Eimeria maxima was conducted. The comparison among different lines of chickens showed differential gene expression patterns in lines with different resistance to Eimeria. The similar body weight reduction indicated that there may not be a significant Eimeria resistant line among the Ross, Fayoumi M5.1 and M15.2 birds. The interaction between Eimeria and the host cell is very complex. Studying the mechanisms behind the changes of gene expression during Eimeria infection may give rise to potential therapeutic targets of coccidiosis.
- Doctoral Dissertations