The inheritance of avian scleroderma, a fibrotic autoimmune disease of chickens resembling human scleroderma, was investigated. Comb inflammations and lesions were used to determine the state of disease of 4-week-old chickens. All line 200 males and 60% of female line 200 chicks showed abnormalities. Crosses (F4) between line 200 and eight partially inbred lines of chickens maintained at the University of California at Davis were all normal. Backcrosses of F, cocks to line 200 hens showed a higher incidence of scleroderma in males than in females for all lines. The incidence of affected birds varied between backcrosses from a low of 42% for backcross line 217 males derived from a New Hampshire line, to 88% for males of backcross line 213 derived from a partially inbred Leghorn line, demonstrating the presence of genes modifying the penetrance of presumed major genes causing the disease. Backcross genotypes segregating for haplotypes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) derived from inbred lines showed consistently lower penetrance of scleroderma than homozygotes carrying the line 200 haplotype. Thus B3 BS (lines 211 and 215), B14Bus (line 217), and B15BS (lines 212, 213, 216, and 218) all had fewer affected individuals than BSBS homozygotes from the same families.
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