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Avian metapneumovirus infection of chicken and turkey tracheal organ cultures: comparison of virus–host interactions

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Avian metapneumovirus (aMPV) is a pathogen with worldwide distribution, which can cause high economic losses in infected poultry. aMPV mainly causes infection of the upper respiratory tract in both chickens and turkeys, although turkeys seem to be more susceptible. Little is known about virus–host interactions at epithelial surfaces after aMPV infection. Tracheal organ cultures (TOC) are a suitable model to investigate virus–host interaction in the respiratory epithelium. Therefore, we investigated virus replication rates and lesion development in chicken and turkey TOC after infection with a virulent aMPV subtype A strain. Aspects of the innate immune response, such as interferon-α and inducible nitric oxide synthase mRNA expression, as well as virus-induced apoptosis were determined. The aMPV-replication rate was higher in turkey (TTOC) compared to chicken TOC (CTOC) (P< 0.05), providing circumstantial evidence that indeed turkeys may be more susceptible. The interferon-α response was down-regulated from 2 to 144 hours post infection in both species compared to virus-free controls (P< 0.05); this was more significant for CTOC than TTOC. Inducible nitric oxide synthase expression was significantly up-regulated in aMPV-A-infected TTOC and CTOC compared to virus-free controls (P< 0.05). However, the results suggest that NO may play a different role in aMPV pathogenesis between turkeys and chickens as indicated by differences in apoptosis rate and lesion development between species. Overall, our study reveals differences in innate immune response regulation and therefore may explain differences in aMPV – A replication rates between infected TTOC and CTOC, which subsequently lead to more severe clinical signs and a higher rate of secondary infections in turkeys.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Clinic for Poultry, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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