Analysis of constitutive cytokine expression by pigs infected in-utero with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus

W-H Feng, M B Tompkins, J-S Xu, H-X Zhang, M B McCaw
Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 2003 July 15, 94 (1): 35-45
To investigate cytokine alterations in pigs infected in-utero with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), constitutive mRNA expression by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was measured. PBMC from in-utero PRRSV-infected pigs displayed significantly increased IL-6, IL-10, and IFN-gamma mRNA expression at 0 and 14 days of age compared with age-matched control pigs. There were no significant differences in IL-2, IL-4, and IL-12 mRNA expression between in-utero PRRSV-infected and control pigs. However, the IL-10/IL-12 ratio was significantly increased in in-utero PRRSV-infected pigs at 0 and 14 days of age, suggesting the imbalance of IL-10 and IL-12 mRNA production. The abnormal mRNA expression of cytokines in in-utero PRRSV-infected pigs occurred concurrently with a significant decrease in the CD4(+)/CD8(+) T-cell ratio in peripheral blood. PRRSV was not isolated from the sera of pigs at 9 weeks of age that had been viremic at 0 and 14 days old. Delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses to Tuberculin and analysis of cytokine mRNA expression by PBMC showed that cell-mediated immune response and cytokine message profiles in pigs infected in-utero with PRRSV had returned to levels similar to those of control pigs by 9 weeks of age. We conclude that in-utero infection with PRRSV results in significant alteration of cytokine mRNA expression that may cause transient immunomodulation. However, at 10 weeks of age the pigs' immune responses seemed to recover. This may help to understand the immunopathogenesis of in-utero PRRSV infection and the increased susceptibility to secondary bacterial pathogens in neonatal piglets.

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