Maternal Transfer of Natural (Auto-) Antibodies in Chickens

M. Rifqi Ismiraj, J.A.J. Arts, H.K. Parmentier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The presence and relative levels (titers) of IgM and IgG natural antibodies (NAb) binding keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), and natural (auto-) antibodies (N(A)Ab) binding salmon double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), (oxidated-) phosphatidyl (phosphoryl) choline-conjugated bovine serum albumin (PC-BSA), PC-conjugated ovalbumin (PC-OVA), and OVA, respectively, were studied in adult hen plasma, egg yolk, egg albumen, plasma of their hatchlings, and in 8-day-old chick plasma. Birds and eggs were from 2 lines divergently selected for high or low NAb levels binding KLH. This study aimed to determine 1) correlated phenotypic responses of selection for NAb to KLH, 2) transfer of maternal NAb and N(A)Ab via egg compartments, 3) levels of likely maternal NAb and N(A)Ab in hatchlings and 8-day-old chicks, and 4) whether a composite trait: IgM anti-PC-BSA/IgG anti-dsDNA ratio in the compartments could be used as a parameter for health or immune status.

NAb and N(A)Ab to all tested antigens were found in adult hens, but low or no levels were found for IgM in yolk and IgG in albumen. Depending on the antigen, NAb and N(A)Ab were found in hatchlings and day 8 birds. Divergent selection and breeding based on NAb binding KLH affected antibody titers of almost all antigens in almost all compartments, in a similar way. Maternal transfer of NAb and N(A)Ab from the adult hen to offspring was via specific routes for specific antigens and isotypes, especially for IgG as suggested by cluster analyses and significant correlations. There was little indication of production of new NAb and N(A)Ab to the studied antigens in either the egg compartments or the hatchlings. A composite trait of IgM PC-BSA/IgG dsDNA ratio was as yet not indicative for immune status, as no significant differences were found between the lines for all compartments.

In conclusion, hens provide neonatal chickens with natural (self-) binding IgG antibodies that have been proposed to perform homeostatic functions during the period in which neonates do not produce these antibodies themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberpez017
Pages (from-to)2380-2391
Number of pages12
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number6
Early online date25 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


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