Leukocyte transcriptome from chickens infected with avian pathogenic Escherichia coli identifies pathways associated with resistance

Erin E. Sandford, Megan Orr, Mandy Shelby, Xianyao Li, Huaijun Zhou, Timothy J. Johnson, Subhashinie Kariyawasam, Peng Liu, Lisa K. Nolan, Susan J. Lamont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) causes colibacillosis, which is responsible for morbidity and mortality in chickens. Gene expression patterns have previously been demonstrated to differ between chicken populations that are resistant vs. susceptible to bacterial infection, but little is currently known about gene expression response to APEC. Increased understanding of gene expression patterns associated with resistance will facilitate genetic selection to increase resistance to APEC. Male broiler chicks were vaccinated at 2 weeks of age and challenged with APEC at 4 weeks of age. Peripheral blood leukocytes were collected at 1 and 5 day post-infection. Lesions on the liver, pericardium, and air sacs were used to assign a mild or severe pathology status to non-vaccinated, challenged chicks. Ten treatment groups were therefore generated with a priori factors of vaccination, challenge, day post-infection, and the a posteriori factor of pathology status. Global transcriptomic response was evaluated using the Agilent 44K chicken microarray. APEC infection resulted in more up-regulation than down-regulation of differentially expressed genes. Immune response and metabolic processes were enriched with differentially expressed genes. Although vaccination significantly reduced lesions in challenged bird, there was no detectable effect of vaccination on gene expression. This study investigated the transcriptomic differences in host responses associated with mild vs. severe pathology, in addition to the effects of vaccination and challenge, thus revealing genes and networks associated with response to APEC and providing a foundation for future studies on, and genetic selection for, genetic resistance to APEC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-53
Number of pages10
JournalResults in Immunology
StatePublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2008-35604-18805 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Microbial Genome Program . ES support provided by USDA National Needs Graduate Fellowship Competitive Grant no. 2007-38420-17767 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture . MS support National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates DBI-1062211 .


  • Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli
  • Chicken
  • Immune resp nse
  • Leukocytes
  • Microarray
  • Transcriptome


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