Marek’s disease virus (MDV) is a highly cell-associated, oncogenic alpha herpesvirus that causes Marek’s disease (MD) in chickens. Chicken erythrocytes are nucleated cells of myeloid origin which contribute to gases exchange, transportation and immunity. The objective of this study was to reveal the immune responses of MDV-infected erythrocytes of chicken by transcriptome analysis. Twenty specific pathogen-free (SPF) chickens were divided into two groups as control and treatment. The chickens of treatment group were inoculated with MDV, and blood samples of two groups were obtained at 14 and 22 days post-infection (dpi) for RNA extraction. Transcriptome analysis was performed to explore the immune responses of chicken erythrocytes to MDV infection at 14 dpi and 22 dpi. In total, 129.6 million reads of two groups at two time points were mapped against the reference genome (Gallusgallus 5.0). A significant differential pattern of the immune response of chicken erythrocytes was identified by the GO and KEGG databases between the two phases of MDV infection. The results indicated that cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, toll-like receptor signaling pathway, mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) signaling pathway, Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK-STAT) signaling pathway were involved in the response to MDV infection. The expression levels of all most differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in these four pathways were upregulated significantly at 14 and 22 dpi, indicating that the immune responses of erythrocytes were induced by MDV. This study may help to elucidate the molecular mechanism of chicken erythrocytes relate to immune responses in MDV infection.
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