Avian β-defensins (AvβDs) are antimicrobial peptides that play significant roles in the innate immune system in chickens. The aim of this study was to identify the types of AvβDs expressed in the chicken ovary, to investigate the effects of sexual maturation in the ovarian mRNA abundance and to determine the changes in their expression levels as a result to Salmonella enteritidis (SE) infection. RNA was extracted from the ovary of healthy prepubertal, sexually mature and aged birds, as well as from sexually mature and aged SE infected birds. Real-time PCR analysis revealed that 11 AvβDs genes were expressed in the chicken ovary. A significant up regulation of AvβD1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 11 was observed in the ovary of sexually mature and aged birds. Furthermore, a significant up-regulation of AvβD4, 5, 7, 11 and 12 was observed in the ovary of SE infected sexually mature birds. These results suggest that the mRNA expression of at least six AvβDs increase with age in the ovary of laying hens, and that at least five AvβDs show an induction in their expression in response to SE infection, indicating an AvβD-mediated immune response mechanism in the chicken ovary.
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