Successful sequencing of genes for antigen recognition for viruses and bacteria in long-distance migratory birds

Daniela Contreras
26 March 2024
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  • The thesis research was carried out by Kiara Fernández for the Master of Science degree in Genetics, which was graded with a 7. During her research, the professional succeeded in sequencing two genes that are highly specific and important for the recognition of antigens for viruses and bacteria that are essential for triggering an adaptive immune response in animals when exposed to pathogens.
  • The results of this research, financially supported by EPIWIld, are highly relevant given that migratory birds have been described as major spreaders of emerging diseases globally, as well as bats and rodents.

The thesis "Allelic diversity and selection at the MHC class I and class II in a longdistance migratory shorebird, the Hudsonian Godwit(Limosa haemastica)" presented by Kiara Fernández last week was graded with a 7 grade.

The sponsoring professor of this thesis was Dr. Claudio Verdugo, who explained that "we were able to sequence two genes in migratory birds that are highly specific and important for the recognition of antigens for viruses and bacteria. This recognition allows us to know what their immune system is like and how it adapts to be able to disseminate and carry this type of pathogens, as occurs in bats and rodents, and that is why it is associated with EPIWILD".

Once these genes were identified, we proceeded to "use a bioinformatics flow very similar to the one that will be used in EPIwild and we analyzed the data in a very similar way, which allowed us to know how many alleles exist, and what type of genetic variability and gene richness exists in this group of birds," said Verdugo.

For this research, Kiara Fernández studied the straight-billed curlew(limosa haemastica) throughout its distribution, as they breed in Alaska and Canada, migrate as far as Chiloé and Tierra del Fuego, and then return to the northern hemisphere to redistribute again.

Among the results of this research is the finding of a high genetic diversity with respect to MHC class I (Major Histocompatibility Complex), which means that it must be responding to a high diversity of intracellular pathogens. "This tells us that these birds could be exposed to a great diversity of viruses that can be a threat to avian and public health. That is why it is of interest to know which and what these birds are facing and it leads us to think that the virus communities to which the birds and the people and animals they cohabit are exposed to are highly rich in potential pathogens," said Verdugo.

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