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Mol Vis. 2013;19:614-22. Epub 2013 Mar 20.

Porcine corneal cell culture models for studying epidemic keratoconjunctivitis.

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  • 1Institute of Virology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.



Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC) is a severe ocular infection caused by a few types (8, 19a [relabeled as 64 recently], 37, 53, and 54) of human adenoviruses (HAdVs). HAdVs are known for their strong host species specificity that limits studying HAdV virulence and pathophysiology in animal models.


A HAdV infection model of primary porcine corneal epithelial cells (PPCE) and primary porcine corneal keratocytes (PPCK) was established and compared to primary human corneal epithelial cells (PHCE) and primary human corneal keratocytes (PHCK). Induction of interleukin-8 (IL-8) messenger RNA (mRNA), HAdV DNA replication, and the release of infectious virus progeny by the EKC-associated type HAdV-D37 and the non-EKC-associated type HAdV-D22 were studied.


PPCE and PPCK morphology and the expression of α2,3-linked sialic acid, the main receptor of EKC-associated HAdV types, were akin to human corneal cells (PHCE and PHCK). Induction of IL-8 mRNA was observed as early as 8 h after HAdV infection. Induction of IL-8 mRNA by HAdV-D37 infection was significantly higher (p≤0.001) than by HAdV-D22 infection in PPCE, PPCK, PHCE, and PHCK. Detection of HAdV-DNA replication, release of infectious virus progeny, and the development of cytopathic effect indicated that PPCE and PPCK were fully permissive for HAdV-D37 and HAdV-D22 replication as were the human corneal cells (PHCE and PHCK). Infectious virus titers after HAdV-D37 infection (1.0 × 10(5) TCID50/ml) were significantly higher (p=0.001) than after HAdV-D22 infection (1.8 × 10(4) TCID50/ml) in PPCE, PHCE, and PHCK but not significantly different in PPCK.


Primary porcine epithelial cells and keratocytes are nonhuman corneal cell culture models fully permissive for HAdV infection. The models hold promise for studying the virulence and pathophysiology of EKC-associated adenovirus types compared to other adenovirus types.

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