Investigation of mRNA expression changes associated with field exposure to DDTs in chickens from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Thompson, Lesa A.
Van Vuren, Johan J.
Smit, Nico J.
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The objective of this study was to identify potential mRNA expression changes in chicken livers associated with environmental exposure to dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolites (DDTs). In particular, we focused on genes relating to the immune system and metabolism. We analyzed liver samples from free-ranging chickens in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, for contamination by DDTs. This area predominantly uses DDT in its malaria control program, and homes are sprayed annually with the pesticide. Genes relating to the immune system and metabolism were selected as potential genetic biomarkers that could be linked to higher contamination with DDTs. RT-qPCR analysis on 39 samples showed strong correlations between DDTs contamination and mRNA expression for the following genes: AvBD1, AvBD2, AvBD6 and AvBD7 (down-regulated), and CYP17, ELOVL2 and SQLE (up-regulated). This study shows for the first time interesting and significant correlations between genetic material collected from environmentally-exposed chickens and mRNA expression of several genes involved in immunity and metabolism. These findings show the usefulness of analysis on field samples from a region with high levels of environmental contamination in detecting potential biomarkers of exposure. In particular, we observed clear effects from DDT contamination on mRNA expression of genes involved in immune suppression, endocrine-disrupting effects, and lipid dysregulation. These results are of interest in guiding future studies to further elucidate the pathways involved in and clinical importance of toxicity associated with DDT exposure from contaminated environments, to ascertain the health risk to livestock and any subsequent risks to food security for people