Eco-immunological studies of innate immunity in Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)

Sammanfattning: This thesis comprises two sections, both of which explore eco-immunology of the innate immune system of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). The innate immune system serves a pivotal role as the first line of defense against invading pathogens, and is comprised of physical and chemical barriers. Its main function is to inhibit and/or eliminate the pathogenic microorganisms while minimizing collateral damage to host cells.The first section investigates the allelic variation and selective forces acting on five avian β-defensins (AvBD) genes. Showing that purifying selection is the predominant selective force, although one gene AvBD3b, appeared to be subject to balancing selection. Moreover, the solution structure of the AvBD3b peptide was solved in this work, revealing that it contains a typical β-defensin fold with three β-sheets. Linear and folded AvBD3b peptides were shown to exhibit similar antibacterial properties, indicating that the tertiary structure was not the primary determinant of antimicrobial activity. Moreover, testing the antimicrobial activity of synthetic AvBD peptides showed that they mostly had higher activity against Gram-negative than Gram-positive bacteria.The second section investigates expression of two innate immune genes during avian influenza virus infection. Data quality in gene expression studies depends, in part, on the stability of the reference genes (RGs) used to normalize expression levels, meaning putative RGs must be validated prior to use. Eleven potential mallard RGs were tested and it was found that the stability varied across different tissue types, highlighting the importance of correct RG selection for the specific experimental conditions. Optimal RGs were then used in a gene expression study of retinoic acid inducible gene 1 (RIG-I) and myxovirus resistant gene (Mx) in mallards during a low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) infection. Upregulation of both genes was rapid and transient, returning back to basal levels two days post infection across most of the five tissue types analyzed.This thesis provides new insights into the tertiary structure and antimicrobial activity of AvBDs, and how this relates to selective pressures exerted in natural populations. It also highlights the importance of RGs validation, and confirms that RIG-I and Mx are involved in the early stages of the mallard immune response to LPAI infection.

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