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Vet Res. 2012 May 23;43:45. doi: 10.1186/1297-9716-43-45.

Increased bovine Tim-3 and its ligand expressions during bovine leukemia virus infection.

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  • 1Department of Disease Control, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 060-0818, Japan.


The immunoinhibitory receptor T cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain-3 (Tim-3) and its ligand, galectin-9 (Gal-9), are involved in the immune evasion mechanisms for several pathogens causing chronic infections. However, there is no report concerning the role of Tim-3 in diseases of domestic animals. In this study, cDNA encoding for bovine Tim-3 and Gal-9 were cloned and sequenced, and their expression and role in immune reactivation were analyzed in bovine leukemia virus (BLV)-infected cattle. Predicted amino acid sequences of Tim-3 and Gal-9 shared high homologies with human and mouse homologues. Functional domains, including tyrosine kinase phosphorylation motif in the intracellular domain of Tim-3 were highly conserved among cattle and other species. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis showed that bovine Tim-3 mRNA is mainly expressed in T cells such as CD4+ and CD8+ cells, while Gal-9 mRNA is mainly expressed in monocyte and T cells. Tim-3 mRNA expression in CD4+ and CD8+ cells was upregulated during disease progression of BLV infection. Interestingly, expression levels for Tim-3 and Gal-9 correlated positively with viral load in infected cattle. Furthermore, Tim-3 expression level closely correlated with up-regulation of IL-10 in infected cattle. The expression of IFN-γ and IL-2 mRNA was upregulated when PBMC from BLV-infected cattle were cultured with Cos-7 cells expressing Tim-3 to inhibit the Tim-3/Gal-9 pathway. Moreover, combined blockade of the Tim-3/Gal-9 and PD-1/PD-L1 pathways significantly promoted IFN-γ mRNA expression compared with blockade of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway alone. These results suggest that Tim-3 is involved in the suppression of T cell function during BLV infection.

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