The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus induces the MAPK signaling pathway in the trachea of two Ri chicken lines

Objective: The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) is a threat to the poultry industry and economy and remains a potential source of pandemic infection in humans. Antiviral genes are considered a potential factor for studies on HPAIV resistance. Therefore, in this study, we investigated gene expression related to the MAPK signaling pathway by comparing non-infected, HPAI-infected resistant, and susceptible Ri chicken lines.

Methods: Resistant (Mx/A; BF2/B21) and susceptible Ri chickens (Mx/G; BF2/B13) were selected by genotyping the Mx and BF2 genes. Then, their tracheal tissues of non-infected and HPAIV H5N1 infected chickens were collected for RNA sequencing.

Results: A gene set overlapping test between the analyzed differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and functionally categorized genes was performed, including biological processes of the Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways. A total of 1,794 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were observed between control and H5N1-infected resistant Ri chickens, 432 DEGs between control and infected susceptible Ri chickens, and 1,202 DEGs between infected susceptible and infected resistant Ri chickens. The expression levels of MAPK signaling pathway-related genes (including MyD88, NF-κB, AP-1, c-fos, Jun, JunD, MAX, c-Myc), cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8), type I interferons (IFN-α, IFN-β), and IFN-stimulated genes (Mx1, CCL19, OASL, and PRK) were higher in H5N1-infected than in non-infected resistant Ri chickens. MyD88, Jun, JunD, MAX, cytokines, chemokines, IFNs, and IFN-stimulated expressed genes were higher in resistant-infected than in susceptible-infected Ri chickens.

Conclusion: Resistant Ri chickens showed higher antiviral activity compared to susceptible Ri chickens, and H5N1-infected resistant Ri chickens had immune responses and antiviral activity (cytokines, chemokines, interferons, and IFN-stimulated genes), which may have been induced through the MAPK signaling pathway in response to H5N1 infection.