An outbred calf model for determining innate immune sensing and evolutionary trajectories of a cell culture-adapted bovine foamy virus variant
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Bovine foamy virus (BFVbta) displays a very high degree of cell-associated replication which is unprecedented even among the other known foamy viruses. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that it can in fact adapt in vitro to high-titer (HT) cell-free transmission due to genetic changes acquired during repeated rounds of cell-free BFVbta passages in immortalized bovine MDBK cells. Molecular clones obtained from the HT BFVbta Riems cell-free variant (HT BFVbta Riems) have been thoroughly characterized in MDBK cell cultures However, during recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the source of the host cells used for virus growth and functional studies of virus replication and virus–cell interactions plays a paramount role. Established cell lines, mostly derived from tumors, but occasionally experimentally immortalized and transformed, frequently display aberrant features relating, for example. to growth, metabolism, and genetics. Even state-of-the-art organoid cultures of primary cells cannot replicate the conditions in an authentic host, especially those concerning cell diversity and the role of innate and adaptive immunity. Therefore, to determine the overall replication characteristics of the cloned wt and HT BFVbta Riems variant, we conducted a small-scale animal pilot study. The replication of the original wt BFVbta Riems isolate, as well as that of its HT variant, were analyzed. Both BFVbta variants established infection in calves, with proviruses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and induced Gag-specific antibodies. In addition, a related pattern in the host innate immune reaction was detected in the peripheral blood leukocytes of the BFV-infected calves. Surprisingly, an analysis of the Gag sequence two weeks post-inoculation revealed that the HT BFVbta variant showed a very high level of genetic reversion to the wild type (parental BFVbta genotype).
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