Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome is a major cause of economic loss for the swine industry worldwide. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) triggers weak and atypical innate immune responses, but key genes and mechanisms by which the virus interferes with the host innate immunity have not yet been elucidated. In this study, genes that control the response of the main target of PRRSV, porcine alveolar macrophages (PAMs), were profiled in vitro with a time-course experiment spanning the first round of virus replication. PAMs were obtained from six piglets and challenged with the Lelystad PRRSV strain, and gene expression was investigated using Affymetrix microarrays and real-time PCR. Of the 1409 differentially expressed transcripts identified by analysis of variance, two, five, 25, 16 and 100 differed from controls by a minimum of 1.5-fold at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 h post-infection (p.i.), respectively. A PRRSV infection effect was detectable between 3 and 6 h p.i., and was characterized by a consistent downregulation of gene expression, followed by the start of the host innate immune response at 9 h p.i. The expression of beta interferon 1 (IFN-β), but not of IFN-α, was strongly upregulated, whilst few genes commonly expressed in response to viral infections and/or induced by interferons were found to be differentially expressed. A predominance of anti-apoptotic transcripts (e.g. interleukin-10), a shift towards a T-helper cell type 2 response and a weak upregulation of tumour necrosis factor-α expression were observed within 12 h p.i., reinforcing the hypotheses that PRRSV has developed sophisticated mechanisms to escape the host defence
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