For a variety of infectious diseases and immuno-logical parameters heterosis has been shown. Because F2 generations and backcrosses are not often produced the relative importance of dominance versus epistasis cannot be decided. In poultry the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) has been studied serologically, biochemically and molecularly in diverse background genomes. Interaction between MHC and background genome has frequently been observed for immune response, Marek disease and lymphoid leukosis. With the advent of genomic genetics not only relevant genes for immune response and disease can be easily detected, but also the interactions between genes at a much larger scale. Some examples of complementation, at cis- and trans-level are available for tumour regression. Germline transmission of genes may therefore provide a suitable model for study of gene interaction at molecular and gene product level. Studies of heterosis and epistasis need cautious interpretation with regard to importance of maternal antibodies and environmental effects, like route of infection or vaccination. Genomic genetics again may be helpful to locate loci that have an advantage in defined environments. In general we have new molecular tools available to recognise interaction between genes. Our challenge will be to understand the concomitant biochemical and physiological (immunological) mechanisms and relate these to disease.

A. J van der Zijpp, M. H Pinard, J. J Blankert

Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume XVI. Poultry, fish and horse genetics and breeding, growth and reproduction, immune response and disease resistance., , 31–38, 1990
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