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The current fears of a future influenza pandemic have resulted in an increased emphasis on the development and testing of novel therapeutic strategies against the virus. Fundamental to this is the ferret model of influenza infection, critical in examining pathogenesis and treatment. Nevertheless, a precise evaluation of the efficacy of any treatment strategy in ferrets is reliant on understanding the immune response in this model. Interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins (IFITMs) are interferon-stimulated proteins shown to be critically important in the host immune response against viral infections. These proteins confer intrinsic innate immunity to pH-dependent viruses such as influenza viruses and can inhibit cytosolic entry of such viruses to limit the severity of infection following interferon upregulation. Mutations in IFITM genes in humans have been identified as key risk factors for worsened disease progression, particularly in the case of avian influenza viruses such as H7N9. While the IFITM locus of has been well characterized, no studies have been conducted to classify the IFITM locus and interferon-driven upregulation of IFITMs in ferrets. Here, we show the architecture of the ferret IFITM locus and its synteny to the IFITM locus of other mammalian and avian species. Furthermore, we show that ferret IFITM1, -2 and -3 are functionally responsive to both IFN-α and influenza virus stimulation. Thus, we show ferret IFITMs exhibit similar interferon-stimulated properties to those shown in other species, furthering our knowledge of the innate immune response in the ferret model of human influenza virus infections.ImportanceIFITM proteins can prevent the entry of several pH-dependent viruses, including high consequence viruses such as HIV, influenza viruses, and SARS-coronaviruses. Mutations in these genes have been associated with worsened disease outcomes with mutations in their IFITM genes, highlighting these genes as potential disease risk factors. Ferrets provide a valuable tool to model infectious diseases, however there is a critical shortage of information regarding their interferon-stimulated genes. We identified the putative ferret IFITM genes and mapped their complete gene locus. Thus, our study fills a critical gap in knowledge supports the further use of the ferret model to explore the importance of IFITMs in these important diseases. © Crown copyright 2021.


William S J Horman, Katherine Kedzierska, Christina L Rootes, Andrew G D Bean, Thi H O Nguyen, Daniel S Layton. Upregulated expression of ferret Interferon-Inducible Transmembrane genes by IFN-α and influenza virus infection. Journal of virology. 2021 May 05

PMID: 33952646

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