The growing feather as a dermal test site: Comparison of leukocyte profiles during the response toMycobacterium butyricumin growing feathers, wattles, and wing webs

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Using the response to Mycobacterium butyricum as the test-immune response, the main goal of this study was to demonstrate the suitability of the growing feather (GF) as a dermal test site and window into in vivo cellular/tissue responses (US-Patent 8,216,551). Using M. butyricum immunized chickens, the specific objectives were to: 1) compare the leukocyte infiltration response to intra-dermally injected M. butyricum in GF, wattles, and wing webs; 2) use GF as the test site to monitor leukocyte response profiles to recall antigen in the same individuals; and 3) gain new knowledge regarding the local response to M. butyricum in chickens. For objective 1, chickens were euthanized for tissue collection at 4 to 6, 24, 48, and 72 h after intra-dermal antigen injection. Leukocyte infiltration profiles were determined using immunochemical and conventional histology. Data from this study established the similarities between the cellular response in GF, wattles, and wing webs and uncovered many advantages of working with GF. For objective 2, antigen was injected into multiple GF per individual. GF were collected before and at 0.25, 1, 2, 3, and 7 d post injection and processed for cell population analysis by flow cytometry. Advantages of the approach used in objective 2 included a technically easier, more comprehensive, and more objective leukocyte profile analysis; same-day data acquisition; and, most importantly, easy, minimally invasive sample collection from the same individual throughout the study. Both studies contributed new knowledge regarding the local cutaneous response to M. butyricum in M. butyricum immunized chickens and confirmed the cell-mediated nature of the immune response to M. butyricum (e.g., elevated levels [P < 0.05] of T cells [CD4+ and CD8+], macrophages and MHC class II+-cells on days one to 3 post injection in M. butyricum- compared to PBS-injected tissues). The use of GF as an “in vivo test tube” to monitor local innate and adaptive immune activities will find direct application in vaccine development, as well as in the assessment and optimization of immune system development and function in poultry.

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