Mechanisms of Maintenance of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus Persistence Inferred from Genes Differentially Expressed in nasopharyngeal Epithelia of Virus Carriers and Non-carriers
Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) causes persistent infection of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells in ~50% of infected ruminants. The mechanisms involved are not clear. This study provides a continued investigation of differentially expressed genes (DEG) identified in a previously published transcriptomic study analyzing micro-dissected epithelial samples from FMDV carriers and non-carriers. Pathway analysis of DEG indicated that immune cell trafficking, cell death and hematological system could be affected by the differential gene expression. Further examination of the DEG identified five downregulated (chemerin, CCL23, CXCL15, CXCL16 and CXCL17) and one upregulated (CCL2) chemokines in carriers compared to non-carriers. The differential expression could reduce the recruitment of neutrophils, antigen-experienced T cells and dendritic cells and increase the migration of macrophages and NK cells to the epithelia in carriers, which was supported by DEG expressed in these immune cells. Downregulated chemokine expression could be mainly due to the inhibition of canonical NFκB signaling based on DEG in the signaling pathways and transcription factor binding sites predicted from the proximal promoters. Additionally, upregulated CD69, IL33 and NID1 and downregulated CASP3, IL17RA, NCR3LG1, TP53BP1, TRAF3 and TRAF6 in carriers could inhibit the Th17 response, NK cell cytotoxicity and apoptosis. Based on our findings, we hypothesize that (1) under-expression of chemokines that recruit neutrophils, antigen-experienced T cells and dendritic cells, (2) blocking NK cell binding to target cells and (3) suppression of apoptosis induced by death receptor signaling, viral RNA and cell-mediated cytotoxicity in the epithelia compromised virus clearance and allowed FMDV to persist. These hypothesized mechanisms provide novel information for further investigation of persistent FMDV infection.