Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Veterinary Science

First Advisor

Dr. Udeni B. R. Balasuriya


Equine arteritis virus (EAV) has a global impact on the equine industry being the causative agent of equine viral arteritis (EVA), a reproductive, respiratory, and systemic disease of equids. A distinctive feature of EAV infection is that it establishes long-term persistent infection in the reproductive tract of stallions and is continuously shed in the semen (carrier state). Recent studies showed that long-term persistence is associated with a specific allele of the CXCL16 gene (CXCL16S). However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the establishment and maintenance of persistent infection are yet to be determined. The studies were undertaken herein unequivocally demonstrated that the ampulla is the main EAV tissue reservoir rather than immunologically privileged tissues (i.e., testes) and that EAV has specific tropism for stromal cells and CD8+ T and CD21+ B lymphocytes but not glandular epithelium in the reproductive tract. Furthermore, persistent EAV infection is associated with a significant humoral, mucosal antibody and inflammatory response at the site of persistence, characterized by induction of high levels of neutralizing antibodies (IgG1), mucosal anti-EAV-specific IgA, IgG1, IgG3/5, and IgG4/7 with variable neutralizing efficacy; and moderate, multifocal lymphoplasmacytic ampullitis, with significant infiltration of T lymphocytes (mainly CD8+ and low numbers of FOXP3+ lymphocytes), CD21+ B lymphocytes, diverse Ig-secreting plasma cells, and Iba-1+ and CD83+ tissue macrophages/dendritic cells. Moreover, EAV long-term persistent infection is associated with a CD8+ T lymphocyte transcriptional profile with upregulation of T-cell exhaustion-related transcripts and homing chemokines/chemokine receptors (CXCL9-11/CXCR3 and CXCL16/CXCR6), orchestrated by a specific subset of transcription factors (EOMES, PRDM1, BATF, NFATC2, STAT1, IRF1, TBX21), which are associated with the presence of the susceptibility allele (CXCL16S). Finally, these studies have determined that long-term EAV persistence is associated with the downregulation of a specific seminal exosome-associated miRNA (eca-mir-128) along with an enhanced expression of CXCL16 in the reproductive tract, a putative target of eca-mir-128. These findings provide evidence that this miRNA plays a crucial role in the regulation of the CXCL16/CXCR6 axis in the reproductive tract of persistently infected stallions, a chemokine axis strongly implicated in EAV persistence. The findings presented herein suggest that complex host-pathogen interactions shape the outcome of EAV infection in the stallion and that EAV employs complex immune evasion mechanisms favoring persistence in the reproductive tract. Further studies to identify specific mechanisms mediating the modulation of the CXCL16/CXCR6 axis and viral immune evasion in the reproductive tract of the EAV long-term carrier stallion are warranted.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)