Modulation of the immune responses in chickens by low-pathogenicity avian influenza virus H9N2

Zheng Xing, Carol J. Cardona, Jinling Li, Nguyet Dao, Tu Tran, Jason Andrada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Most low-pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) viruses cause no or mild disease in avian species. Little is known about the mechanisms of host defence and the immune responses of avian influenza-infected birds. This study showed that chicken macrophages are susceptible to infection with LPAI H9N2 and H6N2 viruses and that infection led to apoptosis. In H9N2 virus-infected chicken macrophages, Toll-like receptor 7 responded to infection and mediated the cytokine responses. Whilst pro-inflammatory cytokines were largely upregulated, the interferon (IFN) response was fairly weak and IFN-inducible genes were differentially regulated. Among the regulated genes, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens II were downregulated, which also occurred in the lungs of H9N2-infected chickens. Additionally, interleukin (Q-4, IL-4 receptor and CD74 (MHC class II invariable chain) were also downregulated, all of which are pivotal in the activation of CD4+ helper T cells and humoral immunity. Remarkably, in H9N2 virus-infected chickens, the antibody response was severely suppressed. This was in contrast to the robust antibody response in chickens infected with H6N2 virus, in which expression of MHC class II antigens was upregulated. These data suggest that neutralizing antibodies and humoral immunity may not be developed efficiently in H9N2-infected chickens. These findings raise questions about how some LPAI viruses differentially regulate avian immune responses and whether they have similar effects on mammalian immune function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1288-1299
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of General Virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008

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