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J Virol. 2001 Nov;75(21):10372-82.

African swine fever virus infection of porcine aortic endothelial cells leads to inhibition of inflammatory responses, activation of the thrombotic state, and apoptosis.

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Department of Immunology and Pathology, Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright, Surrey GU24 ONF, United Kingdom.


African swine fever (ASF) is an asymptomatic infection of warthogs and bushpigs, which has become an emergent disease of domestic pigs, characterized by hemorrhage, lymphopenia, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. It is caused by a large icosohedral double-stranded DNA virus, African swine fever virus (ASFV), with infection of macrophages well characterized in vitro and in vivo. This study shows that virulent isolates of ASFV also infect primary cultures of porcine aortic endothelial cells and bushpig endothelial cells (BPECs) in vitro. Kinetics of early and late gene expression, viral factory formation, replication, and secretion were similar in endothelial cells and macrophages. However, ASFV-infected endothelial cells died by apoptosis, detected morphologically by terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling and nuclear condensation and biochemically by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage at 4 h postinfection (hpi). Immediate-early proinflammatory responses were inhibited, characterized by a lack of E-selectin surface expression and interleukin 6 (IL-6) and IL-8 mRNA synthesis. Moreover, ASFV actively downregulated interferon-induced major histocompatibility complex class I surface expression, a strategy by which viruses evade the immune system. Significantly, Western blot analysis showed that the 65-kDa subunit of the transcription factor NF-kappaB, a central regulator of the early response to viral infection, decreased by 8 hpi and disappeared by 18 hpi. Both disappearance of NF-kappaB p65 and cleavage of PARP were reversed by the caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk. Interestingly, surface expression and mRNA transcription of tissue factor, an important initiator of the coagulation cascade, increased 4 h after ASFV infection. These data suggest a central role for vascular endothelial cells in the hemorrhagic pathogenesis of the disease. Since BPECs infected with ASFV also undergo apoptosis, resistance of the natural host must involve complex pathological factors other than viral tropism.

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