Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Veterinary Science

First Advisor

Dr. Peter J. Timoney

Second Advisor

Dr. Udeni B.R. Balasuriya

Abstract

Equine arteritis virus (EAV) is the causal agent of equine viral arteritis, a disease of equids. During natural outbreaks of the disease, EAV can cause abortion in pregnant mares and persistent infection in stallions. Understanding how host cellular proteins interact with viral RNA and viral proteins, as well as their role in viral infection, will enable better characterization of the pathogenesis of EAV and establishment of persistent infection in stallions. Accordingly, we hypothesized that both viral factors and host genetically related factors could influence the outcome of EAV infection in horses. To test this hypothesis, we first combined contemporary molecular biology techniques with dual color flow cytometric analysis to characterize the interactions of viral structural proteins and the equine peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro. Results from this study demonstrated that interactions between GP2, GP3, GP4, GP5 and M envelope proteins of EAV play a major role in determining the CD14+ monocyte tropism while the tropism of CD3+ T lymphocytes is determined by GP2, GP4, GP5 and M envelope proteins but not the GP3 protein. Secondly, a genome wide association study using SNP genotyping identified a common haplotype associated with the in vitro CD3+ T lymphocyte/resistance to EAV infection among four breeds of horses. Subsequently, these studies were extended to establish a possible correlation between the in vitro susceptibility of CD3+ T lymphocytes to EAV and establishment of persistent infection in stallions. Interestingly, carrier stallions with susceptible CD3+ T lymphocyte phenotype to EAV may represent those at higher risk of becoming persistently infected. Finally, the precise effect of EAV on the immune system of horses, innate and humoral immunity, was studied. Horses were shown to mount a strong humoral antibody response to nonstructural proteins (nsps) 2, 4, 5 and 12 of EAV, whereas nsps 1, 2 and 11 suppressed the type I interferon production. The data presented in this dissertation suggest new directions for future EAV research using genomic and proteomic approaches to study host cell factors involved in EAV attachment and entry and establishment of persistent infection in the stallions.

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