The effect of equine herpesvirus type 4 on type-I interferon signaling molecules

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Equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4) is mildly pathogenic but is a common cause of respiratory disease in horses worldwide. We previously demonstrated that unlike EHV-1, EHV-4 is not a potent inducer of type-I IFN and does not suppress that IFN response, especially during late infection, when compared to EHV-1 infection in equine endothelial cells (EECs). Here, we investigated the impact of EHV-4 infection in EECs on type-I IFN signaling molecules at 3, 6, and 12 hpi. Findings from our study revealed that EHV-4 did not induce nor suppress TLR3 and TLR4 expression in EECs at all the studied time points. EHV-4 was able to induce variable amounts of IRF7 and IRF9 in EECs with no evidence of suppressive effect on these important transcription factors of IFN-α/β induction. Intriguingly, EHV-4 did interfere with the phosphorylation of STAT1/STAT2 at 3 hpi and 6 hpi, less so at 12 hpi. An active EHV-4 viral gene expression was required for the suppressive effect of EHV-4 on STAT1/STAT2 phosphorylation during early infection. One or more early viral genes of EHV-4 are involved in the suppression of STAT1/STAT2 phosphorylation observed during early time points in EHV-4-infected EECs. The inability of EHV-4 to significantly down-regulate key molecules of type-I IFN signaling may be related to the lower severity of pathogenesis when compared with EHV-1. Harnessing this knowledge may prove useful in controlling future outbreaks of the disease.

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Veterinary immunology and immunopathology

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