Evolution and Antiviral Specificities of Interferon-Induced Mx Proteins of Bats against Ebola, Influenza, and Other RNA Viruses
Bats serve as a reservoir for various, often zoonotic viruses, including significant human pathogens such as Ebola- and influenza viruses. However, for unknown reasons, viral infections rarely cause clinical symptoms in bats. A tight control of viral replication by the host innate immune defense might contribute to this phenomenon. Transcriptomic studies revealed the presence of the interferon-induced antiviral myxovirus resistance (Mx) proteins in bats, but detailed functional aspects have not been assessed. To provide evidence that bat Mx proteins might act as key factors to control viral replication we cloned Mx1 cDNAs from three bat families, Pteropodidae, Phyllostomidae and Vespertilionidae. Phylogenetically these bat Mx1 genes cluster closely with their human ortholog MxA. Using transfected cell cultures, minireplicon systems, virus-like particles and virus infections, we determined the antiviral potential of the bat Mx1 proteins. Bat Mx1 significantly reduced the polymerase activity of viruses circulating in bats, including Ebola- and influenza A-like viruses. The related Thogoto virus, however, which is not known to infect bats was not inhibited by bat Mx1. Further, we provide evidence for positive selection in bat Mx1 genes that might explain species-specific antiviral activities of these proteins. Together, our data suggest a role for Mx1 in controlling these viruses in their bat hosts.
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