Altered gene response to aflatoxin b1 in the spleens of susceptible and resistant turkeys

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Susceptibility and/or resistance to aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is a threshold trait governed principally by glutathione S transferase (GST)-mediated detoxification. In poultry, domesticated Turkeys are highly sensitive to AFB1, most likely due to dysfunction in hepatic GSTs. In contrast, wild Turkeys are comparatively resistant to aflatoxicosis due to the presence of functional hepatic GSTAs and other possible physiological and immunological interactions. The underlying genetic basis for the disparate GST function in Turkeys is unknown as are the broader molecular interactions that control the systemic response. This study quantifies the effects of dietary AFB1 on gene expression in the Turkey spleen, specifically contrasting genetically distinct domesticated (DT, susceptible) and Eastern wild (EW, resistant) birds. Male Turkey poults were subjected to a short-term AFB1 treatment protocol with feed supplemented with 320 ppb AFB1 beginning on day 15 of age and continuing for 14 days. Spleen tissues were harvested and subjected to deep RNA sequencing and transcriptome analysis. Analysis of differential gene expression found the effects of AFB1 treatment on the spleen transcriptomes considerably more prominent in the DT birds compared to EW. However, expression of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) was directionally biased, with the majority showing higher expression in EW (i.e., down-regulation in DT). Significantly altered pathways included FXR/RXR and LXR/RXR activation, coagulation system, prothrombin activation, acute phase response, and atherosclerosis signaling. Differential extra-hepatic expression of acute phase protein genes was confirmed by quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR) in the original experiment and additional Turkey lines. Results demonstrate that wild Turkeys possess a capacity to more effectively respond to AFB1 exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number242
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 28 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, National Institute of Food and Agriculture Animal Genome Program (2013-01043), the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine Hatch Formula Fund and the Minnesota and Utah Agricultural Experiments Stations, and approved as Utah Agricultural Experiment Station journal paper number 9198.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


  • Aflatoxin B1
  • Poultry
  • RNAseq
  • Spleen
  • Transcriptome
  • Turkey


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