Singular PCV2a or PCV2b infection results in apoptosis of hepatocytes in clinically affected gnotobiotic pigs

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Sinha, Avanti
Schalk, Shayleen
Lager, Kelly
Wang, Chong
Opriessnig, Tanja
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StatisticsVeterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is clinically associated with respiratory disease, failure-to-thrive, hepatitis, and diarrhea; however, the precise pathogenesis of PCV2-associated disease and in particular its involvement in apoptosis is still controversial. The objectives of this study were (1) to determine whether PCV2 is associated with apoptosis by examining and comparing hepatic tissues from clinically affected or unaffected gnotobiotic pigs that were experimentally infected with PCV2, (2) to determine if there are differences between PCV2a and PCV2b in inducing hepatocyte apoptosis, and (3) to determine if there are differences between apoptosis detection systems. Forty-eight gnotobiotic pigs were separated into five groups based on inoculation status and development of clinical disease: (1) sham-inoculated, clinically-unaffected (n = 4), (2) inoculated with PCV2a, clinically-unaffected (n = 10), (3) inoculated with PCV2a, clinically-affected (n = 6), (4) inoculated with PCV2b, clinically-unaffected, (n = 13) and (5) inoculated with PCV2b, clinically-affected (n = 15). Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections of liver from all pigs were analyzed for signs of apoptosis [presence of single strand DNA breaks in the nucleus by the terminal transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay or presence of intra-nuclear cleaved caspase 3 (CCasp3) demonstrated by CCasp3 immunohistochemistry (IHC)]. In addition, the liver tissues were also tested for presence of cytoplasmic and intra-nuclear PCV2 antigen by an IHC assay. Specific CCasp3 and TUNEL labeling was detected in the nucleus of hepatocytes in PCV2a and PCV2b infected pigs with significantly (P < 0.05) higher levels of apoptotic cells in clinically-affected pigs. Regardless of PCV2 subtype (PCV2a; PCV2b), there were higher levels of PCV2 antigen in clinically-affected pigs compared to clinically-unaffected pigs. There was no significant difference in detection rate of apoptotic cells between the TUNEL assay and CCasp3 IHC. When high amounts of PCV2 antigen were present, the incidence of CCasp3 and TUNEL staining also increased regardless of the PCV2 genotype. This suggests that PCV2-induced apoptosis of hepatocytes is important in the pathogenesis of PCV2-associated lesions and disease.


This article is from Research in Veterinary Science 92 (2012); 151, doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2010.10.013.