Anti-Lyssaviral Activity of Interferons κ and ω from the Serotine Bat, Eptesicus serotinus
Interferons (IFNs) are cytokines produced by host cells in response to the infection with pathogens. By binding to the corresponding receptors, IFNs trigger different pathways to block intracellular replication and growth of pathogens and to impede the infection of surrounding cells. Due to their key role in host defense against viral infections, as well as for clinical therapies, the IFN responses and regulation mechanisms are well studied. However, studies of type I IFNs have mainly focused on alpha interferon (IFN-α) and IFN-β subtypes. Knowledge of IFN-κ and IFN-ω is limited. Moreover, most studies are performed in humans or mouse models but not in the original host of zoonotic pathogens. Bats are important reservoirs and transmitters of zoonotic viruses such as lyssaviruses. A few studies have shown an antiviral activity of IFNs in fruit bats. However, the function of type I IFNs against lyssaviruses in bats has not been studied yet. Here, IFN-κ and IFN-ω genes from the European serotine bat, Eptesicus serotinus, were cloned and functionally characterized. E. serotinus IFN-κ and IFN-ω genes are intronless and well conserved between microchiropteran species. The promoter regions of both genes contain essential regulatory elements for transcription factors. In vitro studies indicated a strong activation of IFN signaling by recombinant IFN-ω, whereas IFN-κ displayed weaker activation. Noticeably, both IFNs inhibit to different extents the replication of different lyssaviruses in susceptible bat cell lines. The present study provides functional data on the innate host defense against lyssaviruses in endangered European bats. IMPORTANCE We describe here for the first time the molecular and functional characterization of two type I interferons (IFN-κ and -ω) from European serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). The importance of this study is mainly based on the fact that very limited information about the early innate immune response against bat lyssaviruses in their natural host serotine bats is yet available. Generally, whereas the antiviral activity of other type I interferons is well studied, the functional involvement of IFN-κ and -ω has not yet been investigated.