The duck genome consortium, consisting of scientists from China Agricultural University, BGI, the University of Edinburgh and other institutes, has completed the genome sequencing and analysis of the duck (Anas platyrhynchos), one principal natural host of influenza A viruses, which caused a new epidemic in China beginning this past February. This work, which was published online in Nature Genetics, reveals some noteworthy conclusions and provides an invaluable resource for unraveling the interactive mechanisms between the host and influenza viruses. The new H7N9 bird flu has strain killed 36 people and caused a $6.5 billion loss to China's economy. As a natural host of influenza A viruses (including H5N1), the duck is known to often remain asymptomatic under influenza infection. To uncover the interactive mechanisms between the host and influenza viruses, researchers sequenced the genome of a 10-week-old female Beijing duck, and conducted transcriptomic studies on two virus-infected ducks. This work yielded the draft sequence of a waterfowl-duck for the first time, and the data indicated that the duck, like the chicken and zebra finch, possesses a contractive immune gene repertoire compared to those in mammals, and it also comprises novel genes that are not present in the other three birds (chicken, zebra finch and turkey). By comparing gene expression in the lungs of ducks infected with either highly or weakly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses, the team identified genes whose expression patterns were altered in response to avian influenza viruses. They also identify factors that may be involved in duck host immune response to avian virus infection, including the avian and mammalian -defensin gene families. Dr.
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