In avian species, maternal blood immunoglobulin Y (IgY) is transferred to the egg yolks of maturing oocytes, but the mechanism underlying this transfer is unknown. To gain insight into the mechanism of maternal IgY transfer in quail, we established an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the quantitation of quail IgY. We characterized strain differences in blood and egg yolk IgY concentrations and exogenously injected IgY-Fc uptakes into egg yolks. A specific rabbit polyclonal antibody to quail IgY was raised for the ELISA. Blood and egg yolk IgY concentrations were determined in six quail strains (one inbred strain, L; four closed population strains, AWE, DB, PS, WE; one commercial strain, Commercial). The birds were also injected with digoxigenin-labeled quail IgY-Fc, and its uptakes into laid eggs were compared. The strain difference in blood and egg yolk IgY concentrations was at most 2.5-fold, between PS and AWE. The rank order of IgY concentrations was AWE, Commercial, DB, L≥WE≥PS. A significant positive correlation (|R|=0.786) between individual blood IgY and egg yolk IgY and the concentrated egg yolk IgY (1.5-2-fold) against blood IgY was observed. Interestingly, there was a significant inverse correlation (|R|=0.452) between injected IgY-Fc uptakes and the blood IgY concentration, implying competition of the injected IgY-Fc and blood IgY in the process of IgY uptake into egg yolks. In conclusion, we successfully determined blood and egg yolk IgY concentrations in various quail strains by a quail IgY-specific ELISA. The concentrated egg yolk IgY against the blood IgY and the inverse relationship of exogenous IgY-Fc uptake against the blood IgY supports the existence of a selective IgY transport mechanism in avian maturing oocytes.
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Blood IgY; ELISA; Egg yolk; Maternal IgY transfer; Quail; Strain difference