Prominent amphibian (Xenopus laevis) tadpole type III interferon response to the frog virus 3 ranavirus

Leon Grayfer, Francisco De Jesús Andino, Jacques Robert
Journal of Virology 2015, 89 (9): 5072-82

UNLABELLED: Ranaviruses (Iridoviridae) are posing an increasing threat to amphibian populations, with anuran tadpoles being particularly susceptible to these viral infections. Moreover, amphibians are the most basal phylogenetic class of vertebrates known to possess both type I and type III interferon (IFN)-mediated immunity. Moreover, little is known regarding the respective roles of the IFN mediators in amphibian antiviral defenses. Accordingly, we transcriptionally and functionally compared the amphibian Xenopus laevis type I (IFN) and III (IFN-λ) IFNs in the context of infections by the ranavirus frog virus 3 (FV3). X. laevis IFN and IFN-λ displayed distinct tissue expression profiles. In contrast to our previous findings that X. laevis tadpoles exhibit delayed and modest type I IFN responses to FV3 infections compared to the responses of adults, here we report that tadpoles mount timely and robust type III IFN gene responses. Recombinant forms of these cytokines (recombinant X. laevis IFN [rXlIFN] and rXlIFN-λ) elicited antiviral gene expression in the kidney-derived A6 cell line as well as in tadpole leukocytes and tissues. However, rXlIFN-λ was less effective than rXlIFN in preventing FV3 replication in A6 cells and tadpoles and inferior at promoting tadpole survival. Intriguingly, FV3 impaired A6 cell and tadpole kidney type III IFN receptor gene expression. Furthermore, in A6 cultures rXlIFN-λ conferred equal or greater protection than rXlIFN against recombinant viruses deficient for the putative immune evasion genes, the viral caspase activation and recruitment domain (vCARD) or a truncated vIF-2α gene. Thus, in contrast to previous assumptions, tadpoles possess intact antiviral defenses reliant on type III IFNs, which are overcome by FV3 pathogens.

IMPORTANCE: Anuran tadpoles, including those of Xenopus laevis, are particularly susceptible to infection by ranavirus such as FV3. We investigated the respective roles of X. laevis type I and type III interferons (IFN and IFN-λ, respectively) during FV3 infections. Notably, tadpoles mounted timely and more robust IFN-λ gene expression responses to FV3 than adults, contrasting with the poorer tadpole type I IFN responses. However, a recombinant X. laevis IFN-λ (rXlIFN-λ) conferred less protection to tadpoles and the A6 cell line than rXlIFN, which may be explained by the FV3 impairment of IFN-λ receptor gene expression. The importance of IFN-λ in tadpole anti-FV3 defenses is underlined by the critical involvement of two putative immune evasion genes in FV3 resistance to IFN- and IFN-λ-mediated responses. These findings challenge the view that tadpoles have defective antiviral immunity and suggest, rather, that their antiviral responses are predominated by IFN-λ responses, which are overcome by FV3.

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