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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2012 Jul;19(7):1054-64. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00237-12. Epub 2012 May 16.

Fell Pony syndrome: characterization of developmental hematopoiesis failure and associated gene expression profiles.

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Departments of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.


Fell Pony syndrome (FPS) is a fatal immunodeficiency that occurs in foals of the Fell Pony breed. Affected foals present with severe anemia, B cell lymphopenia, and opportunistic infections. Our objective was to conduct a prospective study of potential FPS-affected Fell Pony foals to establish clinical, immunological, and molecular parameters at birth and in the first few weeks of life. Complete blood counts, peripheral blood lymphocyte phenotyping, and serum immunoglobulin concentrations were determined for 3 FPS-affected foals, 49 unaffected foals, and 6 adult horses. In addition, cytology of bone marrow aspirates was performed sequentially in a subset of foals. At birth, the FPS-affected foals were not noticeably ill and had hematocrit and circulating B cell counts comparable to those of unaffected foals; however, over 6 weeks, values for both parameters steadily declined. A bone marrow aspirate from a 3-week-old FPS-affected foal revealed erythroid hyperplasia and concurrent erythroid and myeloid dysplasia, which progressed to a severe erythroid hypoplasia at 5 weeks of life. Immunohistochemical staining confirmed the paucity of B cells in primary and secondary lymphoid tissues. The mRNA expression of genes involved in B cell development, signaling, and maturation was investigated using qualitative and quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR). Several genes, including CREB1, EP300, MYB, PAX5, and SPI1/PU.1, were sequenced from FPS-affected and unaffected foals. Our study presents evidence of fetal erythrocyte and B cell hematopoiesis with rapid postnatal development of anemia and B lymphopenia in FPS-affected foals. The transition between fetal/neonatal and adult-like hematopoiesis may be an important aspect of the pathogenesis of FPS.

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