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Reduced Replication of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus in Duck Endothelial Cells Compared to Chicken Endothelial Cells Is Associated with Stronger Antiviral Responses


Endotheliotropism is a hallmark for virulent influenza viruses in chickens, seldomly seen, if at all, in ducks. An interesting paper by Delta-Flu partners in the NL studied the susceptibility & immune response of duck endothelial cells infected with H5N1.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIVs) cause fatal systemic infections in chickens, which are associated with endotheliotropism. HPAIV infections in wild birds are generally milder and not endotheliotropic. Here, we aimed to elucidate the species-specific endotheliotropism of HPAIVs using primary chicken and duck aortic endothelial cells (chAEC and dAEC respectively). Viral replication kinetics and host responses were assessed in chAEC and dAEC upon inoculation with HPAIV H5N1 and compared to embryonic fibroblasts. Although dAEC were susceptible to HPAIV upon inoculation at high multiplicity of infection, HPAIV replicated to lower levels in dAEC than chAEC during multi-cycle replication. The susceptibility of duck embryonic endothelial cells to HPAIV was confirmed in embryos. Innate immune responses upon HPAIV inoculation differed between chAEC, dAEC, and embryonic fibroblasts. Expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL8 increased in chicken cells but decreased in dAEC. Contrastingly, the induction of antiviral responses was stronger in dAEC than in chAEC, and chicken and duck fibroblasts. Taken together, these data demonstrate that although duck endothelial cells are permissive to HPAIV infection, they display markedly different innate immune responses than chAEC and embryonic fibroblasts. These differences may contribute to the species-dependent differences in endotheliotropism and consequently HPAIV pathogenesis.