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The genetic basis of natural antibody titersof young healthy pigs and relationshipswith disease resilience

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  • Background Disease resilience is the ability to maintain performance under pathogen exposure but is difficult to select for because breeding populations are raised under high health. Selection for resilience requires a trait that is heritable, easy to measure on healthy animals, and genetically correlated with resilience. Natural antibodies (NAb) are important parts of the innate immune system and are found to be heritable and associated with disease susceptibility in dairy cattle and poultry. Our objective was to investigate NAb and total IgG in blood of healthy, young pigs as potential indicator traits for disease resilience. Results Data were from Yorkshire x Landrace pigs, with IgG and IgM NAb (four antigens) and total IgG measured by ELISA in blood plasma collected ~ 1 week after weaning, prior to their exposure to a natural polymicrobial challenge. Heritability estimates were lower for IgG NAb (0.12 to 0.24, + 0.05) and for total IgG (0.19 + 0.05) than for IgM NAb (0.33 to 0.53, + 0.07) but maternal effects were larger for IgG NAb (0.41 to 0.52, + 0.03) and for total IgG (0.19 + 0.05) than for IgM NAb (0.00 to 0.10, + 0.04). Phenotypically, IgM NAb titers were moderately correlated with each other (average 0.60), as were IgG NAb titers (average 0.42), but correlations between IgM and IgG NAb titers were weak (average 0.09). Phenotypic correlations of total IgG were moderate with NAb IgG (average 0.46) but weak with NAb IgM (average 0.01). Estimates of genetic correlations among NAb showed similar patterns but with small SE, with estimates averaging 0.76 among IgG NAb, 0.63 among IgM NAb, 0.17 between IgG and IgM NAb, 0.64 between total IgG and IgG NAb, and 0.13 between total IgG and IgM NAb. Phenotypically, pigs that survived had slightly higher levels of NAb and total IgG than pigs that died. Genetically, higher levels of NAb tended to be associated with greater disease resilience based on lower mortality and fewer parenteral antibiotic treatments. Genome-wide association analyses for NAb titers identified several genomic regions, with several candidate genes for immune response. Conclusions Levels of NAb in blood of healthy young piglets are heritable and potential genetic indicators of resilience to polymicrobial disease.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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    • Yulu Chen, Laura E. Tibbs Cortes, Carolyn Ashley, Austin M. Putz, Kyu-Sang Lim, Michael K. Dyck, Frederic Fortin, Graham S. Plastow, Jack C. M. Dekkers, John C. S. Harding, & PigGen Canada. (2020). The genetic basis of natural antibody titers of young healthy pigs and relationships with disease resilience. BMC Genomics, 21(1), 1–17.