The Pirbright Institute publication directory contains details of selected publications written by our researchers.

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Marek’s disease virus (MDV) infection causes immunosuppression in the host, ultimately inducing tumor formation and causing significant economic losses to the poultry industry. While the abnormal activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is closely associated with the occurrence and development of tumors. However, the relationship between MDV and the Wnt/β-catenin pathway remains unclear. In this study, we found that the MDV RB1B strain, but not the MDV vaccine strain CVI988, activated the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway by increasing the phosphorylation level of GSK-3β in chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF). In vivo infection experiments in SPF chickens also confirmed that the RB1B strain activated the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, while the CVI988 strain did not lead to its activation. Moreover, unlike the Meq protein encoded by the CVI988 strain, the Meq protein encoded by the RB1B strain specifically activated the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in CEF cells. The findings from these studies extend our understanding of the regulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling by MDV, which make a new contribution to understanding the virus–host interactions of MDV.

Magg V, Manetto A, Kopp K, Wu CC, Naghizadeh M, Lindner D, Eke L, Welsch J, Kallenberger SM, Schott J, Haucke V, Locker N, Stoecklin Ruggieri A (2024)

Turnover of PPP1R15A mRNA encoding GADD34 controls responsiveness and adaptation to cellular stress

Cell reports 43 (4)


The integrated stress response (ISR) is a key cellular signaling pathway activated by environmental alterations that represses protein synthesis to restore homeostasis. To prevent sustained damage, the ISR is counteracted by the upregulation of growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible 34 (GADD34), a stress-induced regulatory subunit of protein phosphatase 1 that mediates translation reactivation and stress recovery. Here, we uncover a novel ISR regulatory mechanism that post-transcriptionally controls the stability of PPP1R15A mRNA encoding GADD34. We establish that the 3' untranslated region of PPP1R15A mRNA contains an active AU-rich element (ARE) recognized by proteins of the ZFP36 family, promoting its rapid decay under normal conditions and stabilization for efficient expression of GADD34 in response to stress. We identify the tight temporal control of PPP1R15A mRNA turnover as a component of the transient ISR memory, which sets the threshold for cellular responsiveness and mediates adaptation to repeated stress conditions.


Avian leukosis virus subgroup J (ALV-J) is a retrovirus that can cause immunosuppression and tumors in chicken. However, relative pathogenesis is still not clear. At present, metabolomics has shown great potential in the screening of tumor metabolic markers, prognostic evaluation, and drug target design. In this study, we utilize an untargeted metabolomics approach based on ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-QTOF-MS) to analyze the metabolic changes in chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF) cells infected by ALV-J. We found that ALV-J infection significantly altered a wealth of metabolites compared with control group. Additionally, most of the differentially expressed metabolites belonged to lipid metabolism, purine nucleotide metabolism and amino acid metabolism. Among them, the proportion of lipid metabolites account for the highest proportion (around 31%). Results suggest that these changes may be conductive to the formation of virion, thereby promoting the replication of ALV-J. These data provided metabolic evidence and potential biomarkers for the cellular metabolic changes induced by ALV-J, and provided important insight for further understanding the replication needs and pathogenesis of ALV-J.


African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a nucleocytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDV) that encodes its own host-like RNA polymerase (RNAP) and factors required to produce mature mRNA. The formation of accurate mRNA 3′ ends by ASFV RNAP depends on transcription termination, likely enabled by a combination of sequence motifs and transcription factors, although these are poorly understood. The termination of any RNAP is rarely 100% efficient, and the transcriptional “readthrough” at terminators can generate long mRNAs which may interfere with the expression of downstream genes. ASFV transcriptome analyses reveal a landscape of heterogeneous mRNA 3′ termini, likely a combination of bona fide termination sites and the result of mRNA degradation and processing. While short-read sequencing (SRS) like 3′ RNA-seq indicates an accumulation of mRNA 3′ ends at specific sites, it cannot inform about which promoters and transcription start sites (TSSs) directed their synthesis, i.e., information about the complete and unprocessed mRNAs at nucleotide resolution.


African swine fever virus causes a lethal hemorrhagic disease of domestic pigs. The NAM P1/1995 isolate was originally described as B646L genotype XVIII; however, full genome sequencing revealed that this assignment was incorrect.

Goatley LC, Freimanis G, Tennakoon C, Foster TJ, Quershi M, Dixon LD, Batten C, Forth JH, Wade A, Netherton C (2024)

Full genome sequence analysis of African swine fever virus isolates from Cameroon



African swine fever (ASF) is a devastating disease of domestic pigs that has spread across the globe since its introduction into Georgia in 2007. The etiological agent is a large double-stranded DNA virus with a genome of 170 to 180 kb in length depending on the isolate. Much of the differences in genome length between isolates are due to variations in the copy number of five different multigene families that are encoded in repetitive regions that are towards the termini of the covalently closed ends of the genome. Molecular epidemiology of African swine fever virus (ASFV) is primarily based on Sanger sequencing of a few conserved and variable regions, but due to the stability of the dsDNA genome changes in the variable regions occur relatively slowly. Observations in Europe and Asia have shown that changes in other genetic loci can occur and that this could be useful in molecular tracking. ASFV has been circulating in Western Africa for at least forty years. It is therefore reasonable to assume that changes may have accumulated in regions of the genome other than the standard targets over the years. At present only one full genome sequence is available for an isolate from Western Africa, that of a highly virulent isolate collected from Benin during an outbreak in 1997. In Cameroon, ASFV was first reported in 1981 and outbreaks have been reported to the present day and is considered endemic. Here we report three full genome sequences from Cameroon isolates of 1982, 1994 and 2018 outbreaks and identify novel single nucleotide polymorphisms and insertion-deletions that may prove useful for molecular epidemiology studies in Western Africa and beyond.


In the intricate environment of a cell, many studies seek to discover the location of specific events or objects of interest. Advances in microscopy in recent years have allowed for high detail views of specific areas of cells of interest using correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM). While this powerful technique allows for the correlation of a specific area of fluorescence on a confocal microscope with that same area in an electron microscope, it is most often used to study tagged proteins of interest. This method adapts the correlative method for use with antibody labelling. We have shown that some cellular structures are more sensitive than others to this process and that this can be a useful technique for laboratories where tagged proteins or viruses, or dedicated CLEM instruments are not available.


African swine fever (ASF) is a global threat to animal health and food security. ASF is typically controlled by strict biosecurity, rapid diagnosis, and culling of affected herds. Much progress has been made in developing modified live virus vaccines against ASF. There is host variation in response to ASF infection in the field and under controlled conditions. To better understand the dynamics underlying this host differential morbidity, whole transcriptome profiling was carried out in twelve immunized and five sham immunized pigs. Seventeen MHC homozygous inbred Large white Babraham pigs were sampled at three time points before and after the challenge. The changes in the transcriptome profiles of infected animals were surveyed over time. In addition, the immunization effect on the host response was studied as well among the contrasts of all protection subgroups. The results showed two promising candidate genes to distinguish between recovered and non-recovered pigs after infection with a virulent African swine fever virus (ASFV) pre-infection: HTRA3 and GFPT2 (padj < 0.05). Variant calling on the transcriptome assemblies showed a two-base pair insertion into the ACOX3 gene closely located to HTRA3 that may regulate its expression as a putative genomic variant for ASF. Several significant DGEs, enriched gene ontology (GO) terms, and KEGG pathways at 1 day and 7 days post-infection, compared to the pre-infection, indicate a significant inflammation response immediately after ASF infection. The presence of the virus was confirmed by the mapping of RNA-Seq reads on two whole viral genome sequences. This was concordant with a higher virus load in the non-recovered animals 7 days post-infection. There was no transcriptome signature on the immunization at pre-infection and 1 day post-infection. More samples and data from additional clinical trials may support these findings.

Cosme LV, Corley M, Johnson T, Severson DW, Yan G, Wang X, Beebe N, Maynard A, Bonizzoni M, Khorramnejad A, Martins AJ, Lima JBP, Munstermann LE, Surendran SN, Chen CH, Maringer K, Wahid I, Mukherjee S, Xu J, Fontaine MC, Estallo EL, Stein M, Livdahl T, Scaraffia PY, Carter BH, Mogi M, Tuno N, Mains JW, Medley KA, Bowles DE, Gill RJ, Eritja R, González-Obando R, Trang HTT, Boyer S, Abunyewa AM, Hackett K, Wu T, Nguyễn J, Shen J, Zhao H, Crawford JE, Armbruster P, Caccone A (2024)

A genotyping array for the globally invasive vector mosquito, Aedes albopictus

Parasites & Vectors 17 (1)


Background: Although whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is the preferred genotyping method for most genomic analyses, limitations are often experienced when studying genomes characterized by a high percentage of repetitive elements, high linkage, and recombination deserts. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), for example, has a genome comprising up to 72% repetitive elements, and therefore we set out to develop a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip to be more cost-effective. Aedes albopictus is an invasive species originating from Southeast Asia that has recently spread around the world and is a vector for many human diseases. Developing an accessible genotyping platform is essential in advancing biological control methods and understanding the population dynamics of this pest species, with significant implications for public health.

Methods: We designed a SNP chip for Ae. albopictus (Aealbo chip) based on approximately 2.7 million SNPs identified using WGS data from 819 worldwide samples. We validated the chip using laboratory single-pair crosses, comparing technical replicates, and comparing genotypes of samples genotyped by WGS and the SNP chip. We then used the chip for a population genomic analysis of 237 samples from 28 sites in the native range to evaluate its usefulness in describing patterns of genomic variation and tracing the origins of invasions.

Results: Probes on the Aealbo chip targeted 175,396 SNPs in coding and non-coding regions across all three chromosomes, with a density of 102 SNPs per 1 Mb window, and at least one SNP in each of the 17,461 protein-coding genes. Overall, 70% of the probes captured the genetic variation. Segregation analysis found that 98% of the SNPs followed expectations of single-copy Mendelian genes. Comparisons with WGS indicated that sites with genotype disagreements were mostly heterozygotes at loci with WGS read depth < 20, while there was near complete agreement with WGS read depths > 20, indicating that the chip more accurately detects heterozygotes than low-coverage WGS. Sample sizes did not affect the accuracy of the SNP chip genotype calls. Ancestry analyses identified four to five genetic clusters in the native range with various levels of admixture.

Conclusions: The Aealbo chip is highly accurate, is concordant with genotypes from WGS with high sequence coverage, and may be more accurate than low-coverage WGS.


Orthopneumoviruses characteristically form membrane-less cytoplasmic inclusion bodies (IBs) wherein RNA replication and transcription occur. Here, we report a strategy whereby the orthopneumoviruses sequester various components of the translational preinitiation complex machinery into viral inclusion bodies to facilitate translation of their own mRNAs-PIC-pocketing. Electron microscopy of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-infected cells revealed bi-phasic organization of IBs, specifically, spherical "droplets" nested within the larger inclusion. Using correlative light and electron microscopy, combined with fluorescence in situ hybridization, we showed that the observed bi-phasic morphology represents functional compartmentalization of the inclusion body and that these domains are synonymous with the previously reported inclusion body-associated granules (IBAGs). Detailed analysis demonstrated that IBAGs concentrate nascent viral mRNA, the viral M2-1 protein as well as components of eukaryotic translation initiation factors (eIF), eIF4F and eIF3, and 40S complexes involved in translation initiation. Interestingly, although ribopuromycylation-based imaging indicates that the majority of viral mRNA translation occurs in the cytoplasm, there was some evidence for intra-IBAG translation, consistent with the likely presence of ribosomes in a subset of IBAGs imaged by electron microscopy. Mass spectrometry analysis of sub-cellular fractions from RSV-infected cells identified significant modification of the cellular translation machinery; however, interestingly, ribopuromycylation assays showed no changes to global levels of translation. The mechanistic basis for this pathway was subsequently determined to involve the viral M2-1 protein interacting with eIF4G, likely to facilitate its transport between the cytoplasm and the separate phases of the viral inclusion body. In summary, our data show that these viral organelles function to spatially regulate early steps in viral translation within a highly selective bi-phasic biomolecular condensate.


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