Chicken gene find could help improve vaccines

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The discovery of a gene active in specialised chicken gut cells paves the way for studies investigating better design of vaccines.

Surface view of the bursal mucosa with fluorescent proteins expressing M-cells.
The key gene CSF1R is active in specialised chicken gut cells.
A key gene known as CSF1R has been found to be active in specialised epithelial cells, which line the surfaces of tissues in the body.
This was an unexpected finding as CSF1R is typically expressed in cells known as macrophages, which detect and kill infection, not in epithelial cells.
The results in studies with chicken cells pave the way for research looking to enhance the effectiveness of vaccines in chickens and at how pathogens invade the body.
Scientists at the Roslin Institute used transgenic reporter chickens — a method for visualising gene expression — to observe the transport of particles and pathogens by specialised epithelial cells. These bear similarities to M cells in mammals, which have the same function. The key difference is the expression of the CSF1R gene in chicken M cells.
This discovery, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, paves the way to studies using the CSF1R gene as a biological indicator of M cells to investigate infection and immunity in chickens.

Source: The Roslin Institute