Eimeria Species and Genetic Background Influence the Serum Protein Profile of Broilers with Coccidiosis



Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease caused by protozoal parasites of the genus Eimeria. Despite the advent of anti-coccidial drugs and vaccines, the disease continues to result in substantial annual economic losses to the poultry industry. There is still much unknown about the host response to infection and to date there are no reports of protein profiles in the blood of Eimeria-infected animals. The objective of this study was to evaluate the serum proteome of two genetic lines of broiler chickens after infection with one of three species of Eimeria.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Birds from lines A and B were either not infected or inoculated with sporulated oocysts from one of the three Eimeria strains at 15 d post-hatch. At 21 d (6 d post-infection), whole blood was collected and lesion scoring was performed. Serum was harvested and used for 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis. A total of 1,266 spots were quantitatively assessed by densitometry. Protein spots showing a significant effect of coccidia strain and/or broiler genetic line on density at P<0.05−0.01 (250 spots), P<0.01−0.001 (248 spots), and P<0.001 (314 spots) were excised and analyzed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization tandem time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Proteins were identified in 172 spots. A total of 46 different proteins were identified. Of the spots with a corresponding protein identification, 57 showed a main effect of coccidia infection and/or 2-way interaction of coccidia infection×broiler genetic line at P<0.001.


Several of the metabolic enzymes identified in this study are potential candidates for early diagnostic markers of E. acervulina infection including malate dehydrogenase 2, NADH dehydrogenase 1 alpha subcomplex 9, and an ATP synthase. These proteins were detected only in Line A birds that were inoculated with E. acervulina. Results from this study provide a basic framework for future research aimed at uncovering the complex biochemical mechanisms involved in host response to Eimeria infection and in identifying molecular targets for diagnostic screening and development of alternative preventative and therapeutic methods.