Avian coccidiosis is a major parasitic disease of poultry, causing severe economical loss to poultry production by affecting growth and feed efficiency of infected birds. Current control strategies using mainly drugs and more recently vaccination are showing drawbacks and alternative strategies are needed. Using genetic resistance that would limit the negative and very costly effects of the disease would be highly relevant. The purpose of this work was to detect for the first time QTL for disease resistance traits to Eimeria tenella in chicken by performing a genome scan in an F2 cross issued from a resistant Fayoumi line and a susceptible Leghorn line.
The QTL analysis detected 21 chromosome-wide significant QTL for the different traits related to disease resistance (body weight growth, plasma coloration, hematocrit, rectal temperature and lesion) on 6 chromosomes. Out of these, a genome-wide very significant QTL for body weight growth was found on GGA1, five genome-wide significant QTL for body weight growth, plasma coloration and hematocrit and one for plasma coloration were found on GGA1 and GGA6, respectively. Two genome-wide suggestive QTL for plasma coloration and rectal temperature were found on GGA1 and GGA2, respectively. Other chromosme-wide significant QTL were identified on GGA2, GGA3, GGA6, GGA15 and GGA23. Parent-of-origin effects were found for QTL for body weight growth and plasma coloration on GGA1 and GGA3. Several QTL for different resistance phenotypes were identified as co-localized on the same location.
Using an F2 cross from resistant and susceptible chicken lines proved to be a successful strategy to identify QTL for different resistance traits to Eimeria tenella, opening the way for further gene identification and underlying mechanisms and hopefully possibilities for new breeding strategies for resistance to coccidiosis in the chicken. From the QTL regions identified, several candidate genes and relevant pathways linked to innate immune and inflammatory responses were suggested. These results will be combined with functional genomics approaches on the same lines to provide positional candidate genes for resistance loci for coccidiosis. Results suggested also for further analysis, models tackling the complexity of the genetic architecture of these correlated disease resistance traits including potential epistatic effects.