Divergent selection for natural antibodies in poultry in the presence of a major gene

Henk Bovenhuis*, Tom V.L. Berghof, Marleen H.P.W. Visker, Joop A.J. Arts, Jeroen Visscher, Jan J. Van Der Poel, Henk K. Parmentier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Natural antibodies (NAb) are antibodies that are present in a healthy individual without requiring previous exposure to an exogenous antigen. Selection for high NAb levels might contribute to improved general disease
resistance. Our aim was to analyse the genetic background of NAb based on a divergent selection experiment in poultry, and in particular the effect of a polymorphism in the TLR1A gene.
Methods: The study population consisted of a base population from a commercial pure-bred elite white leghorn layer line and seven generations of birds from a High and Low selection line. Birds were selected for total KLH-binding NAb titer (IgTotal). An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was performed to determine NAb titers in blood plasma for IgTotal and the antibody isotypes IgM and IgG. NAb titers were available for 10,878 birds. Genotypes for a polymorphism in TLR1A were determined for chickens in generations 5, 6 and 7. The data were analysed using mixed linear animal models.
Results: The heritability estimate for IgM was 0.30 and higher than that for IgG and IgTotal (0.12). Maternal environmental effects explained 2 to 3% of the phenotypic variation in NAb. Selection for IgTotal resulted in a genetic
difference between the High and Low line of 2.4 titer points (5.1 genetic standard deviation) in generation 7. For IgM, the selection response was asymmetrical and higher in the Low than the High line. The frequency of the TLR1A C allele
was 0.45 in the base population and 0.66 and 0.04 in generation 7 of the High and Low line, respectively. The TLR1A polymorphism had large and significant effects on IgTotal and IgM. Estimated genotypic effects suggest full dominance of the TLR1A C allele. Significant TLR1A by generation interactions were detected for IgM and IgTotal.
Conclusions: The effect of a polymorphism in the TLR1A gene on IgTotal and IgM NAb was confirmed. Furthermore, we provide experimental verification of changes in allele frequencies at a major gene with dominant gene action on
a quantitative trait that is subjected to mass selection. TLR1A by generation interactions indicate sensitivity to environmental factors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalGenetics Selection Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2022


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