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PLoS One. 2014 Sep 22;9(9):e108054. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108054. eCollection 2014.

Genetic variation within the Mx gene of commercially selected chicken lines reveals multiple haplotypes, recombination and a protein under selection pressure.

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Hy-Line International, Dallas Center, Iowa, United States of America.
Prestage Department of Poultry Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States of America.


The Mx protein is one of the best-characterized interferon-stimulated antiviral mediators. Mx homologs have been identified in most vertebrates examined; however, their location within the cell, their level of activity, and the viruses they inhibit vary widely. Recent studies have demonstrated multiple Mx alleles in chickens and some reports have suggested a specific variant (S631N) within exon 14 confers antiviral activity. In the current study, the complete genome of nine elite egg-layer type lines were sequenced and multiple variants of the Mx gene identified. Within the coding region and upstream putative promoter region 36 SNP variants were identified, producing a total of 12 unique haplotypes. Each elite line contained from one to four haplotypes, with many of these haplotypes being found in only one line. Observation of changes in haplotype frequency over generations, as well as recombination, suggested some unknown selection pressure on the Mx gene. Trait association analysis with either individual SNP or haplotypes showed a significant effect of Mx haplotype on several egg production related traits, and on mortality following Marek's disease virus challenge in some lines. Examination of the location of the various SNP within the protein suggests synonymous SNP tend to be found within structural or enzymatic regions of the protein, while non-synonymous SNP are located in less well defined regions. The putative resistance variant N631 was found in five of the 12 haplotypes with an overall frequency of 47% across the nine lines. Two Mx recombinants were identified within the elite populations, indicating that novel variation can arise and be maintained within intensively selected lines. Collectively, these results suggest the conflicting reports in the literature describing the impact of the different SNP on chicken Mx function may be due to the varying context of haplotypes present in the populations studied.

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