Comparative Genomics of the Waterfowl Innate Immune System

Elinor Jax*, Paolo Franchini, Vaishnovi Sekar, Jente Ottenburghs, Daniel Monné Parera, Roman T. Kellenberger, Katharine E. Magor, Inge Müller, Martin Wikelski, Robert H.S. Kraus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Animal species differ considerably in their ability to fight off infections. Finding the genetic basis of these differences is not easy, as the immune response is comprised of a complex network of proteins that interact with one another to defend the body against infection. Here, we used population- and comparative genomics to study the evolutionary forces acting on the innate immune system in natural hosts of the avian influenza virus (AIV). For this purpose, we used a combination of hybrid capture, next- generation sequencing and published genomes to examine genetic diversity, divergence, and signatures of selection in 127 innate immune genes at a micro- and macroevolutionary time scale in 26 species of waterfowl. We show across multiple immune pathways (AIV-, toll-like-, and RIG-I -like receptors signalling pathways) that genes involved genes in pathogen detection (i.e., toll-like receptors) and direct pathogen inhibition (i.e., antimicrobial peptides and interferon-stimulated genes), as well as host proteins targeted by viral antagonist proteins (i.e., mitochondrial antiviral-signaling protein, [MAVS]) are more likely to be polymorphic, genetically divergent, and under positive selection than other innate immune genes. Our results demonstrate that selective forces vary across innate immune signaling signalling pathways in waterfowl, and we present candidate genes that may contribute to differences in susceptibility and resistance to infectious diseases in wild birds, and that may be manipulated by viruses. Our findings improve our understanding of the interplay between host genetics and pathogens, and offer the opportunity for new insights into pathogenesis and potential drug targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermsac160
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Volume39
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Anatidae
  • DNA polymorphism
  • genetic divergence
  • mallard
  • natural selection

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