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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2006 Aug 15;112(3-4):199-209. Epub 2006 Apr 18.

Foals are interferon gamma-deficient at birth.

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Gluck Equine Research Center, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0099, USA.


The increased vulnerability of foals to specific pathogens such as Rhodococcus equi is believed to reflect an innate immunodeficiency, the nature of which remains poorly understood. Previous studies have demonstrated that neonates of many species fail to mount potent Th1 responses. The current research investigates the ability of circulating and pulmonary lymphocytes of developing foals to produce interferon gamma (IFNgamma). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were prepared from up to 10 horse foals at regular intervals throughout the first 6 months of life. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples were collected at 1, 3 or 6 months of age from three groups of five foals. The PBMC and BAL cells were stimulated in vitro and IFNgamma production was measured by intracellular staining. In addition, RNA was extracted from freshly isolated and in vitro stimulated PBMC and BAL cells for quantitation of IFNgamma gene expression by real time PCR. Newborn foals exhibited a marked inability to express the IFNgamma gene and produce IFNgamma protein. This deficiency was observed in both circulating and pulmonary lymphocytes. However, IFNgamma gene expression and protein production increased steadily throughout the first 6 months of life, reaching adult levels within the first year of life. These findings suggest that foals are born with an inherent inability to mount a Th1-based cell mediated immune response which may contribute to their susceptibility to intracellular pathogens.

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