SUMMARY A commercial Arkansas (Ark) Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI)-type vaccine and a more homogeneous population of that vaccine obtained previously through adaptation to chicken embryo kidney (CEK) cells (CEK-ArkDPI) were used as a model to further understand the impact of population genetic structure on generation of immune responses and protection. In a first experiment, vaccinated chickens were challenged with an IBV Ark99-type virulent strain (AL4614/98). Despite extensive sequence similarity between the vaccines, the more heterogeneous commercial ArkDPI was more efficient at reducing viral loads in challenged chickens, while respiratory signs and tracheal lesions were reduced similarly by either vaccine. A distinct subpopulation of the Ark challenge virus showing asparagine at S1 position 56 was consistently negatively selected by immune pressure originating from vaccination with either vaccine. Antibody levels and antibody avidity to Ark-type S1 protein were greater in CEK-ArkDPI-vaccinated chickens compared to chickens vaccinated with the more diverse commercial ArkDPI vaccine. Synchronous replication of a homogeneous virus population likely elicits clonal expansion and affinity maturation of a greater number of responding B cells compared to a diverse virus population continuously changing its proportion of phenotypes during replication. The results of a second experiment showed that during initial vaccine virus replication (24 and 48 hrs post-vaccination), the virus population showing increased diversity (commercial ArkDPI) achieved higher concentrations of IBV RNA in the trachea compared to the more homogenous virus. mRNA expression of genes associated with innate immune responses in the trachea 48 hrs post-vaccination generally showed greater upregulation in chickens vaccinated with the heterogeneous commercial ArkDPI vaccine compared to the CEK-adapted virus. The greater upregulation of these genes is likely associated with higher virus replication achieved by the heterogeneous commercial vaccine. Thus, while the adaptive antibody response was favored by the more homogenous structure of the CEK-ArkDPI vaccine population (higher antibody levels and antibody avidity), the innate immune response was favored by the more diverse viral population of the commercial ArkDPI. We confirmed previous results that distinct subpopulations in wild Ark challenge virus become selected by immune pressure originating from vaccination and concluded that the population structure of IBV vaccines impacts innate immune response, antibody avidity, and protection.

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