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Bovine herpes virus type 1 induces apoptosis through Fas-dependent and mitochondria-controlled manner in Madin-Darby bovine kidney cells

Xingang Xu, Kuan Zhang, Yong Huang, Li Ding, Guangda Chen, Honglei Zhang and Dewen Tong*

Author Affiliations

College of Veterinary Medicine, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, 712100, PR China

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:202  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-202

Published: 17 September 2012



Bovine herpesvirus type 1 (BHV-1) is an important pathogen in cattle that is responsible for substantial economic losses. Previous studies suggest that BHV-1 may induce apoptosis in Madin-Darby bovine kidney (MDBK) cells via a mechanism only involving caspases and p53. However, the mechanism for BHV-1-induced MDBK cell apoptosis still requires more research.


MDBK was used as a model to study the precise signaling pathways of apoptosis induced by BHV-1 infection.


BHV-1 infection activated a Fas/FasL-mediated apoptotic pathway, resulting in activation of caspase-8 and cleavage of Bid. In addition, BHV-1 infection down-regulated Bcl-2 and up-regulated Bax expression, thereby initiating the release of cytochrome c followed by caspase-9 activation. The combined activation of the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways resulted in activation of downstream effecter caspase-3 and poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP), leading to apoptosis. Furthermore, blocking apoptosis using caspase inhibitors improved BHV-1-infected MDBK cell viability to different extent. BHV-1 infection did not induce significant DNA fragmentation in MDBK cells pretreated with ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) or cells infected with UV-inactivated BHV-1. Blocking caspases activation increased BHV-1 replication.


BHV-1 induces apoptosis in MDBK cells through extrinsic and intrinsic pathways and there might be cross-talk between the two pathways. In addition, BHV-1 replication may be necessary for the induction of apoptosis in BHV-1-infected cells, and prolonged cell viability benefits BHV-1 replication.

BHV-1; MDBK cells; Apoptosis; Caspase cascades; Fas; Mitochondria