A team of European scientists found a key pig gene for the replication of African Swine Fever (ASF) virus.
A team from Germany’s Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) and the Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland recently conducted this piece of research. They aimed to find out which pig genes are needed for the ASF virus to replicate.
Their study, which was published in August 2023 in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, shows that a gene from the pig’s immune system is crucial in that process. This provides important new insights into the biology of the ASF virus, which can serve as a basis for future research approaches. In particular, the identified gene offers a suitable approach for the development of effective therapeutics against ASFv infections or ASFv-resistant pig breeds, the 2 organisations wrote in a press release.
ASFv has a large DNA genome from which more than 160 viral proteins are produced in infected cells. Little is known about the functions of many of these viral proteins. It is also not clear which cellular proteins ASF virus uses to enter the host cell.
To identify host proteins important for ASFv, scientists at the Roslin Institute provided a CRISPR/Cas9 expression library as a molecular tool that allowed their colleagues at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut to knock out all known genes in the pig genome individually in vitro and test the resulting cell cultures for susceptibility to ASFv infection.
That led to the identification of several genes of the major histocompatibility complex II (MHC II) as relevant factors for the reproductive capacity of ASFv, the news release explained. In particular, the MHC II receptor protein SLA-DM was shown to be required for efficient ASFv infection. Therefore, the research team concluded, SLA-DM may be a suitable target protein for the development of effective therapeutics against ASF or ASFv resistant pig breeds.