Foals are interferon gamma-deficient at birth

C. C. Breathnach, T. Sturgill-Wright, J. L. Stiltner, A. A. Adams, D. P. Lunn, D. W. Horohov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


The increased vulnerability of foals to specific pathogens such as Rhodococcus equi is believed to reflect an innate immunodeficiency, the nature of which remains poorly understood. Previous studies have demonstrated that neonates of many species fail to mount potent Th1 responses. The current research investigates the ability of circulating and pulmonary lymphocytes of developing foals to produce interferon gamma (IFNγ). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were prepared from up to 10 horse foals at regular intervals throughout the first 6 months of life. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples were collected at 1, 3 or 6 months of age from three groups of five foals. The PBMC and BAL cells were stimulated in vitro and IFNγ production was measured by intracellular staining. In addition, RNA was extracted from freshly isolated and in vitro stimulated PBMC and BAL cells for quantitation of IFNγ gene expression by real time PCR. Newborn foals exhibited a marked inability to express the IFNγ gene and produce IFNγ protein. This deficiency was observed in both circulating and pulmonary lymphocytes. However, IFNγ gene expression and protein production increased steadily throughout the first 6 months of life, reaching adult levels within the first year of life. These findings suggest that foals are born with an inherent inability to mount a Th1-based cell mediated immune response which may contribute to their susceptibility to intracellular pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was generously supported by the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation. CCB was funded by the Paul Mellon Postdoctoral Scholarship Endowment. TSW was supported by Fort Dodge Animal Health. The authors wish to acknowledge the technical assistance of Mr. Lynn Ennis, Mr. Gary Thomas and the staff at Maine Chance Farm, as well as Dr. Patrick McCue at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory, CSU. This is paper number 06-14-040 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • BAL
  • Cytokine
  • Equine
  • Flow cytometry
  • IFN
  • Neonate
  • Real time PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • General Veterinary


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