Marek's disease (MD) is a lymphoproliferative disease of domestic chickens that is caused by a highly cell-associated oncogenic α-herpesvirus, Marek's disease virus (MDV). MDV replicates in chicken lymphocytes and establishes a latent infection within CD4 T cells. Clinical signs of MD include depression, crippling, weight loss, bursal/thymic atrophy, neurologic disorders, and rapid onset of T cell lymphomas that infiltrate lymphoid tissues, visceral organs, and peripheral nerves. The cecal tonsils (CTs) are considered the largest lymphoid aggregates of avian gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Along with Peyer's patches, CTs elicit protective immune responses against bacterial and viral pathogens in the intestinal tract of avian species. In this study, we investigated the effect of MDV infection on toll-like receptor (TLR) gene expression in CTs of MD-susceptible (72) and resistant (63) chicken lines. Real-time PCR gene expression profiling revealed that of the 10 TLRs tested, TLR2A, TLR3, TLR5, and TLR15 displayed significant differential expression patterns at different time points postinoculation. The expression levels of the remaining six genes were minimally affected by MDV infection in either line. Immunohistochemical analysis showed a severe depletion of B cells and CD4 T cells in the CTs of susceptible line at 5 days postinfection (dpi), which recovered by 21 dpi. The destruction of B and T cells in the CTs of the resistant line was minimal at 5 dpi, which also recovered by 21 dpi. A significant infiltration of macrophages was observed after the depletion of B and T cells in the infected birds of both lines that could account for the differential TLR gene expression in the infected birds. The data presented provide further insight into the mechanism of MDV pathogenesis and tissue-specific immunologic responses to viral infection.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2