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Distribution of sialic acid receptors and influenza A virus of avian and swine origin in experimentally infected pigs

Author(s): Trebbien Ramona | Larsen Lars | Viuff Birgitte

Journal: Virology Journal
ISSN 1743-422X

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 434;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background Pigs are considered susceptible to influenza A virus infections from different host origins because earlier studies have shown that they have receptors for both avian (sialic acid-alpha-2,3-terminal saccharides (SA-alpha-2,3)) and swine/human (SA-alpha-2,6) influenza viruses in the upper respiratory tract. Furthermore, experimental and natural infections in pigs have been reported with influenza A virus from avian and human sources. Methods This study investigated the receptor distribution in the entire respiratory tract of pigs using specific lectins Maackia Amurensis (MAA) I, and II, and Sambucus Nigra (SNA). Furthermore, the predilection sites of swine influenza virus (SIV) subtypes H1N1 and H1N2 as well as avian influenza virus (AIV) subtype H4N6 were investigated in the respiratory tract of experimentally infected pigs using immunohistochemical methods. Results SIV antigen was widely distributed in bronchi, but was also present in epithelial cells of the nose, trachea, bronchioles, and alveolar type I and II epithelial cells in severely affected animals. AIV was found in the lower respiratory tract, especially in alveolar type II epithelial cells and occasionally in bronchiolar epithelial cells. SA-alpha-2,6 was the predominant receptor in all areas of the respiratory tract with an average of 80-100% lining at the epithelial cells. On the contrary, the SA-alpha-2,3 was not present (0%) at epithelial cells of nose, trachea, and most bronchi, but was found in small amounts in bronchioles, and in alveoli reaching an average of 20-40% at the epithelial cells. Interestingly, the receptor expression of both SA-alpha-2,3 and 2,6 was markedly diminished in influenza infected areas compared to non-infected areas. Conclusions A difference in predilection sites between SIV and AIV virus was found, and this difference was in accordance with the distribution of the SA-alpha-2,6 and SA-alpha-2,3 receptor, respectively. The results indicated that the distribution of influenza A virus receptors in pigs are similar to that of humans and therefore challenge the theory that the pig acts as a mixing vessel between human and avian influenza viruses. Furthermore, it was shown that AIV prefers to infect alveolar type II epithelial cells in pigs. This corresponds with findings in humans emphasising the resemblance between the two species.
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