Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is the causal agent of postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS), which has severely impacted the swine industry worldwide. PCV2 triggers a weak and atypical innate immune response, but the key genes and mechanisms by which the virus interferes with host innate immunity have not yet been elucidated. In this study, genes that control the response of primary porcine alveolar macrophages (PAMs), the main target of PCV2, were profiled in vitro.
PAMs were successfully infected by PCV2-WH strain, as evidenced quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and immunofluorescence assay (IFA) results. Infection-related differential gene expression was investigated using pig microarrays from the US Pig Genome Coordination Program and validated by real-time PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Microarray analysis at 24 and 48 hours post-infection (HPI) revealed 266 and 175 unique genes, respectively, that were differentially expressed (false discovery rate <0.05; fold-change >2). Only six genes were differentially expressed between 24 and 48 HPI. The up-regulated genes were principally related to immune response, cytokine activity, locomotion, regulation of cell proliferation, apoptosis, cell growth arrest, and antigen procession and presentation. The down-regulated genes were mainly involved in terpenoid biosynthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, translation, proteasome degradation, signal transducer activity, and ribosomal proteins, which were representative of the reduced vital activity of PCV2-infected cells.
PCV2 infection of PAMs causes up-regulation of genes related to inflammation, indicating that PCV2 may induce systematic inflammation. PCV2 persistently induced cytokines, mainly through the Toll-like receptor (TLR) 1 and TLR9 pathways, which may promote high levels of cytokine secretion. PCV2 may prevent apoptosis in PAMs by up-regulating SERPINB9 expression, possibly to lengthen the duration of PCV2 replication-permissive conditions. The observed gene expression profile may provide insights into the underlying immunological response and pathological changes that occur in pigs following PCV2 infection.