Location: Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory
Project Number: 5050-31320-009-00
Start Date: Aug 02, 2012
End Date: Aug 01, 2017
Control of Marek’s disease (MD), a T-cell lymphoma induced by the Marek’s disease virus (MDV), is of particular concern to the poultry industry. Since the 1960s, MDV has evolved to higher virulence probably due to the selective pressure of MD vaccines that do not prevent viral replication or spread. Consequently, there is a need to (1) understand how MDV evolves and evades the immune system, and (2) develop alternative strategies to augment current MD control methods. In this project, we define four interrelated objectives to help achieve these goals. First, we continue to enhance and curate the East Lansing (EL) chicken genetic map, which provides the foundation for the chicken genome assembly and many of our molecular genetic studies. Second, we use genomic approaches to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) and candidate genes that confer genetic resistance or vaccinal immunity to MD. In addition, we explore the potential role of the gut microbial community on the chicken immune response. Third, we evaluate an in vivo model for MDV virulence evolution and if successful, ask the question whether increased virulence is restricted to specific major histocompatibility (MHC) haplotypes. And fourth, in an effort to help preserve our unique experimental genetic lines and expand their utility, we address whether alternative husbandry practices will improve reproductive fitness. Our efforts are greatly enhanced by the availability of genomic tools especially next generation sequencing (NGS). If successful, this project will provide a number of products including (1) more genetic markers and an enhanced genetic map, (2) candidate genes conferring MD resistance or vaccinal response for evaluation in commercial breeding lines, (3) a laboratory model for MDV evolution, (4) specific knowledge on how MDV evolves and evades the host, and (5) experimental chicken lines with improved fitness. Ultimately, the poultry industry and US consumers will benefit by the production of safe and economical products.