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Vet Microbiol. 2008 Jun 22;129(3-4):390-5. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2007.11.034. Epub 2007 Dec 5.

Equine coronavirus induces apoptosis in cultured cells.

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  • 1Laboratory of Veterinary Epizootiology, College of Bioresource Sciences, Nihon University, Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan.


Equine coronavirus (ECoV) was first isolated from a diarrheic foal and was found genetically similar to group II coronaviruses. However, its pathological characteristics were not adequately investigated. In our preliminary in vitro investigation, ECoV-induced cell death was observed in bovine kidney-derived MDBK cells. Based on this finding, we investigated whether the ECoV-induced CPE was apoptosis. Following ECoV infection, MDBK cells showed morphological changes such as cell rounding and detachment from the culture surface. Moreover, syncytium formation was observed as the other type of cytopathic effect in ECoV infection. Morphologic and biochemical features of apoptosis, such as nuclear fragmentation and DNA ladder formation, were also detected in ECoV-infected cells. Moreover, as is commonly observed in coronavirus infection in other animals, the activities of effecter caspases - caspase-3/7 - and initiator caspases - caspase-8 and caspase-9 - that are representative factors in the death receptor-mediated apoptotic pathway and mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, respectively, were increased in ECoV-infected MDBK cells. Therefore, it was suggested that ECoV can induce apoptosis in MDBK cells via a caspase-dependent pathway. Apoptotic death of infected cells is detrimental because it causes cell and tissue destruction and inflammatory responses. Although the pathological characteristics of ECoV are largely unknown, apoptosis may be the pathological basis of lesions of the digestive system in ECoV infection.

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