Innate immune transcriptomic evaluation of PBMC isolated from sheep after infection withE. ruminantiumWelgevonden strain

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Abstract

Heartwater is a tick-borne non-infectious fatal disease of wild and domestic ruminants caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia ruminantium, transmitted by Amblyomma ticks. Although there is evidence that interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) controls E. ruminantium growth and that cellular immune responses could be protective, an effective recombinant vaccine for this disease is lacking. An overall analysis of which immune pathways are up- or down-regulated in sheep peripheral blood mononuclear cells is expected to lead to a better understanding of the global immune response of sheep to E. ruminantium infection. Therefore, a systems biology oriented approach following the infection with E. ruminantium was investigated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells to aid recombinant vaccine development. In this study, heartwater naïve sheep were infected and challenged by allowing E. ruminantium infected ticks to feed on them. After primary infection, all the animals were treated with antibiotic during the resulting febrile response. Blood was collected daily for E. ruminantium detection by qPCR (pCS20 assay). The pCS20 assay only detected the pathogen in the blood one day prior to and during the febrile stage of infection confirming infection of the sheep. IFN-γ real-time PCR indicated that this cytokine was expressed at specific time points: post infection, during the febrile stage of the disease and after challenge. These were used as a guide to select samples for transcriptome sequencing. This paper focuses on transcripts that are associated with innate activating pathways that were identified to be up- and down-regulated after primary infection and the subsequent challenge. These included the CD14 monocyte marker, toll-like receptor (TLR), nod-like receptor, chemokine, cytosolic and cytokine–cytokine interaction receptor pathways. In particular, TLR4, TLR9 and CD14 were activated together with DNA detection pathways, suggesting that vaccine formulations may be improved if CpG motifs and lipopolysaccharides are included. This data indicates that innate immune activation, perhaps by using adjuvants, should be an important component for consideration during future heartwater recombinant vaccine development.

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