Expression of host defense peptides in the intestine ofEimeria-challenged chickens

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Avian coccidiosis is caused by the intracellular protozoan Eimeria, which produces intestinal lesions leading to weight gain depression. Current control methods include vaccination and anticoccidial drugs. An alternative approach involves modulating the immune system. The objective of this study was to profile the expression of host defense peptides such as avian beta-defensins (AvBDs) and liver expressed antimicrobial peptide 2 (LEAP2), which are part of the innate immune system. The mRNA expression of AvBD family members 1, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13 and LEAP2 was examined in chickens challenged with either E. acervulina, E. maxima, or E. tenella. The duodenum, jejunum, ileum, and ceca were collected 7 d post challenge. In study 1, E. acervulina challenge resulted in down-regulation of AvBD1, AvBD6, AvBD10, AvBD11, AvBD12, and AvBD13 in the duodenum. E. maxima challenge caused down-regulation of AvBD6, AvBD10, and AvBD11 in the duodenum, down-regulation of AvBD10 in the jejunum, but up-regulation of AvBD8 and AvBD13 in the ceca. E. tenella challenge showed no change in AvBD expression in any tissue. In study 2, which involved challenge with only E. maxima, there was down-regulation of AvBD1 in the ileum, AvBD11 in the jejunum and ileum, and LEAP2 in all 3 segments of the small intestine. The expression of LEAP2 was further examined by in situ hybridization in the jejunum of chickens from study 2. LEAP2 mRNA was expressed similarly in the enterocytes lining the villi, but not in the crypts of control and Eimeria challenged chickens. The lengths of the villi in the Eimeria challenged chickens were less than those in the control chickens, which may in part account for the observed down-regulation of LEAP2 mRNA quantified by PCR. Overall, the AvBD response to Eimeria challenge was not consistent; whereas LEAP2 was consistently down-regulated, which suggests that LEAP2 plays an important role in modulating an Eimeria infection.

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