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J Gen Virol. 2003 Aug;84(Pt 8):2117-25.

Cytokine mRNA expression profiles in lymphoid tissues of pigs naturally affected by postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome.

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  • 1Departament de Sanitat i d'Anatomia Animals (Unitat de Malalties Infeccioses), Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.


Fifteen 8-week-old conventional pigs were selected from a farm where pigs were suffering from postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS). Ten of the animals were diseased pigs showing typical signs of PMWS (wasting and respiratory disorders) and positive for infection with porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2), and the other five animals selected as controls were pen-mate, apparently healthy pigs. Blood samples and lymphoid tissues were taken from each animal for haematological, serological and histopathological studies. Also, cytokine mRNA expression of IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p40 and IFN-gamma from inguinal and bronchial lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen and thymus was determined by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. Pigs suffering from PMWS showed severe alterations of haematological parameters such as anaemia, lymphopenia with decrease of CD8(+) and IgM(+) cells, monocytosis and neutrophilia. Also, extensive lymphocyte depletion and altered cytokine mRNA expression patterns were seen in most of the examined lymphoid organs. Those cytokine mRNA alterations were characterized by an overexpression of IL-10 mRNA in thymus and IFN-gamma mRNA in tonsils, and by decreases in the mRNA expression of several cytokines as IL-2 and IL-12p40 in the spleen, IL-4 in tonsils, and IFN-gamma, IL-10, IL-12p40 and IL-4 in inguinal lymph nodes. Also, the IL-10 mRNA overexpression was histologically associated with the thymic depletion and atrophy observed in PMWS pigs. In conclusion, the cytokine mRNA imbalance, specially the increased mRNA levels of IL-10 in the thymus, jointly with the histopathological and haematological disorders, are highly indicative of a T-cell immunosuppression, enhancing the notion that the immune system of PMWS-affected pigs is severely impaired.

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