Open Access Research

Molecular characterization of immunoinhibitory factors PD-1/PD-L1 in chickens infected with Marek’s disease virus

Ayumi Matsuyama-Kato1, Shiro Murata1, Masayoshi Isezaki1, Rika Kano1, Sara Takasaki1, Osamu Ichii2, Satoru Konnai1 and Kazuhiko Ohashi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Disease Control, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Kita-18, Nishi-9, Kita-ku, Sapporo, 060-0818, Japan

2 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Kita-18, Nishi-9, Kita-ku, Sapporo, 060-0818, Japan

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:94  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-94

Published: 21 May 2012

Abstract

Background

An immunoinhibitory receptor, programmed death-1 (PD-1), and its ligand, programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), are involved in immune evasion mechanisms for several pathogens causing chronic infections and for neoplastic diseases. However, little has been reported for the functions of these molecules in chickens. Thus, in this study, their expressions and roles were analyzed in chickens infected with Marek’s disease virus (MDV), which induces immunosuppression in infected chickens.

Results

A chicken T cell line, Lee1, which constitutively produces IFN-γ was co-cultured with DF-1 cells, which is a spontaneously immortalized chicken fibroblast cell line, transiently expressing PD-L1, and the IFN-γ expression level was analyzed in the cell line by real-time RT-PCR. The IFN-γ expression was significantly decreased in Lee1 cells co-cultured with DF-1 cells expressing PD-L1. The expression level of PD-1 was increased in chickens at the early cytolytic phase of the MDV infection, while the PD-L1 expression level was increased at the latent phase. In addition, the expression levels of PD-1 and PD-L1 were increased at tumor lesions found in MDV-challenged chickens. The expressions levels of PD-1 and PD-L1 were also increased in the spleens and tumors derived from MDV-infected chickens in the field.

Conclusions

We demonstrated that the chicken PD-1/PD-L1 pathway has immunoinhibitory functions, and PD-1 may be involved in MD pathogenesis at the early cytolytic phase of the MDV infection, whereas PD-L1 could contribute to the establishment and maintenance of MDV latency. We also observed the increased expressions of PD-1 and PD-L1 in tumors from MDV-infected chickens, suggesting that tumor cells transformed by MDV highly express PD-1 and PD-L1 and thereby could evade from immune responses of the host.