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

There were a total of 2128 results for your search.


Viruses routinely employ strategies to prevent the activation of innate immune signalling in infected cells. RSV is no exception, encoding two accessory proteins (NS1 and NS2) which are well established to block Interferon signalling. However, RSV-encoded mechanisms for inhibiting NF-κB signalling are less well characterised. In this study we identified RSV-mediated antagonism of this pathway, independent of the NS1 and NS2 proteins, and indeed distinct from other known viral mechanisms of NF-κB inhibition. In both human and bovine RSV infected cells we demonstrated that the P65 subunit of NF-κB is rerouted to perinuclear puncta in the cytoplasm, puncta which are synonymous with viral inclusion bodies (IBs), the site for viral RNA replication. Captured P65 was unable to translocate to the nucleus or transactivate a NF-κB reporter following TNF-α stimulation, confirming the immune-antagonistic nature of this sequestration. Subsequently, we used correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM) to colocalise RSV N protein and P65 within bRSV IBs; granular, membraneless regions of cytoplasm with liquid organelle-like properties. Additional characterisation of bRSV IBs indicated that although they are likely formed by liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), they have a differential sensitivity to hypotonic shock proportional to their size. Together, these data identify a novel mechanism for viral antagonism of innate immune signalling which relies on sequestration of the NF-κB subunit p65 to a biomolecular condensate – a mechanism conserved across the Orthopneumovirus genus and not host-cell specific. More generally they provide additional evidence that RNA virus IBs are important immunomodulatory complexes within infected cells.

Importance: Many viruses replicate almost entirely in the cytoplasm of infected cells; however, how these pathogens are able to compartmentalise their life cycle to provide favourable conditions for replication and to avoid the litany of antiviral detection mechanisms in the cytoplasm remains relatively uncharacterised. In this paper we show that bovine RSV (bRSV), which infects cattle, does this by generating inclusion bodies in the cytoplasm of infected cells. We confirm that both bRSV and human RSV viral RNA replication takes place in these inclusion bodies, likely meaning these organelles are a functionally conserved feature of this group of viruses (the orthopneumoviruses). Importantly, we also showed that these organelles are able to capture important innate immune transcription factors (in this case NF-KB), blocking the normal signalling processes that tell the nucleus the cell is infected, which may help us to understand how these viruses cause disease.

Holzer B, Rijal P, McNee A, Paudyal B, Clark B, Manjegowda T, Salguero F J, Bessell E, Schwartz J C, Moffat K, Pedrera M, Graham S P, Placido M B-D, La Ragione R M, Mwangi W, Beverley P, McCauley J W, Daniels R S, Hammond J, Townsend A R, Tchilian E (2020)

Protective porcine influenza virus-specific monoclonal antibodies recognize similar haemagglutinin epitopes as humans

bioRxiv preprint, 2020.07.21.213470


Pigs are natural hosts for the same subtypes of influenza A viruses as humans and integrally involved in virus evolution with frequent interspecies transmissions in both directions. The emergence of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus illustrates the importance of pigs in evolution of zoonotic strains. Here we generated pig influenza-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from H1N1pdm09 infected pigs. The mAbs recognized the same two major immunodominant haemagglutinin (HA) epitopes targeted by humans, one of which is not recognized by post-infection ferret antisera that are commonly used to monitor virus evolution. Neutralizing activity of the pig mAbs was comparable to that of potent human anti-HA mAbs. Further, prophylactic administration of a selected porcine mAb to pigs abolished lung viral load and greatly reduced lung pathology but did not eliminate nasal shedding of virus after H1N1pdm09 challenge. Hence mAbs from pigs, which target HA can significantly reduce disease severity. These results, together with the comparable sizes of pigs and humans, indicate that the pig is a valuable model for understanding how best to apply mAbs as therapy in humans and for monitoring antigenic drift of influenza viruses in humans, thereby providing information highly relevant to making influenza vaccine recommendations.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared no competing interest.


BACKGROUND: Previous Genetic Pest Management (GPM) systems in diamondback moth (DBM) have relied on expressing lethal proteins (‘effectors’) that are ‘cell-autonomous’ i.e. do not leave the cell they are expressed in. To increase the flexibility of future GPM systems in DBM, we aimed to assess the use of a non cell-autonomous, invertebrate-specific, neurotoxic effector – the scorpion toxin AaHIT. This AaHIT effector was designed to be secreted by expressing cells, potentially leading to effects on distant cells, specifically neuromuscular junctions.

RESULTS: Expression of AaHIT caused a ‘shaking/quivering’ phenotype which could be repressed by provision of an antidote (tetracycline); a phenotype consistent with the AaHIT mode-of-action. This effect was more pronounced when AaHIT expression was driven by the Hr5/ie1 promoter (82.44% of males, 65.14% of females) rather than Op/ie2 (57.35% of males, 48.39% of females). Contrary to expectations, the shaking phenotype and observed fitness costs were limited to adults where they caused severe reductions in mean longevity (–81%) and median female fecundity (–93%). qPCR of AaHIT expression patterns and analysis of piggyBac-mediated transgene insertion sites suggest that restriction of observed effects to the adult stages may be due to influence of local genomic environment on the tetO-AaHIT transgene.

CONCLUSION: We have demonstrated the feasibility of using non cell-autonomous effectors within a GPM context for the first time in the Lepidoptera, one of the most economically damaging orders of insects. These findings provide a framework for extending this system to other pest Lepidoptera and to other secreted effectors.


This study describes the development and validation of a simplified enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the detection and discrimination of foot‐and‐mouth disease virus (FMDV) serotypes O, A, C and Asia 1. The multiplex ELISA was designed using selected, type‐specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) coated onto ELISA plates as catching antibodies and a unique pan‐FMDV MAb (1F10) as detector conjugate. Capture MAbs with the broadest intratypic reactivity were selected for each of the four FMDV serotypes by screening large panels of candidate MAbs with a wide spectrum of representative FMDV isolates. An additional pan‐FMDV ELISA using 1F10 MAb for both capture and detection was used to complement the specific typing ELISAs to detect virus isolates, which might escape binding to the selected serotype‐specific MAbs. This multiplex ELISA was prepared in a stabilized format, with immunoplates pre‐coated with six MAbs and positive antigen controls already trapped by the relevant MAb, with the view to make available a diagnostic kit. Diagnostic performance of the MAbs–multiplex ELISA was analysed using 299 FMDV‐positive epithelial suspensions representative of the antigenic and genomic variability within each serotype. Overall, the results provided evidence that the diagnostic performance of this assay platform is improved compared to the more complex polyclonal‐based antigen detection ELISA; combining data from different serotypes and referring to the gold standard tests (i.e. virus isolation and/or RT‐PCR), the MAbs–multiplex ELISA showed a sensitivity of 79% for the serotype‐specific ELISA, compared to 72% for the polyclonal ELISA. The absence of reactivity of a minority of FMDV strains using the MAbs–multiplex ELISA can largely be attributed to deteriorated or low antigen concentration in the sample. This multiplex ELISA is simple, rapid and stable. FMDV antigenic diversity was adequately covered by the selected MAbs. Therefore, it can be used to replace existing polyclonal ELISAs for FMDV detection and serotyping.

Grace K E F, Papadopoulou C, Floyd T, Avigad R, Collins S, White E, Batten C, Flannery J, Gubbins S, Carpenter S T (2020)

Risk-based surveillance for bluetongue virus in cattle on the south coast of England in 2017 and 2018

Vet Record early view


BACKGROUND: Bluetongue (BT) is a viral disease of ruminants and camelids which can have a significant impact on animal health and welfare and cause severe economic loss. The UK has been officially free of bluetongue virus (BTV) since 2011. In 2015, BTV-8 re-emerged in France and since then BTV has been spreading throughout Europe. In response to this outbreak, risk-based active surveillance was carried out at the end of the vector seasons in 2017 and 2018 to assess the risk of incursion of BTV into Great Britain.

METHOD: Atmospheric dispersion modelling identified counties on the south coast of England at higher risk of an incursion. Blood samples were collected from cattle in five counties based on a sample size designed to detect at least one positive if the prevalence was 5 per cent or greater, with 95 per cent confidence.

RESULTS: No virus was detected in the 478 samples collected from 32 farms at the end of the 2017 vector season or in the 646 samples collected from 43 farms at the end of the 2018 vector season, when tested by RT-qPCR.

CONCLUSION: The negative results from this risk-based survey provided evidence to support the continuation of the UK's official BTV-free status.


Bilateria are the predominant clade of animals on Earth. Despite having evolved a wide variety of body plans and developmental modes, they are characterized by common morphological traits. By default, researchers have tried to link clade-specific genes to these traits, thus distinguishing bilaterians from non-bilaterians, by their gene content. Here we argue that it is rather biological processes that unite Bilateria and set them apart from their non-bilaterian sisters, with a less complex body morphology. To test this hypothesis, we compared proteomes of bilaterian and non-bilaterian species in an elaborate computational pipeline, aiming to search for a set of bilaterian-specific genes. Despite the limited confidence in their bilaterian specificity, we nevertheless detected Bilateria-specific functional and developmental patterns in the sub-set of genes conserved in distantly related Bilateria. Using a novel multi-species GO-enrichment method, we determined the functional repertoire of genes that are widely conserved among Bilateria. Analyzing expression profiles in three very distantly related model species - D. melanogaster, D. rerio and C. elegans-we find characteristic peaks at comparable stages of development and a delayed onset of expression in embryos. In particular, the expression of the conserved genes appears to peak at the phylotypic stage of different bilaterian phyla. In summary, our study illustrate how development connects distantly related Bilateria after millions of years of divergence, pointing to processes potentially separating them from non-bilaterians. We argue that evolutionary biologists should return from a purely gene-centric view of evolution and place more focus on analyzing and defining conserved developmental processes and periods.


Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) is a poxvirus that causes systemic disease in cattle, resulting in substantial economic loss to affected communities. LSDV is a rapidly emerging pathogen of growing global concern that recently spread from Africa and the Middle East into Europe and Asia, impacting the cattle population in these regions. An increase in research efforts into LSDV is required to address key knowledge gaps, however this is hampered by lack of suitable cell lines on which to propagate and study the virus. In this work we describe the replication and spread of LSDV on Madin-Darby bovine kidney (MDBK) cells, and the formation of foci-type poxvirus plaques by LSDV on MDBK cells. Methods utilising MDBK cells to quantify neutralising antibodies to LSDV, and to purify LSDV genomic DNA suitable for short read sequencing are described. These research methods broaden the tools available for LSDV researchers and will facilitate the gathering of evidence to underpin the development of LSD control and prevention programmes.


Arthropod-borne viruses contribute significantly to global mortality and morbidity in humans and animals. These viruses are mainly transmitted between susceptible vertebrate hosts by hematophagous arthropod vectors, especially mosquitoes. Recently, there has been substantial attention for a novel group of viruses, referred to as insect-specific viruses (ISVs) which are exclusively maintained in mosquito populations. Recent discoveries of novel insect-specific viruses over the past years generated a great interest not only in their potential use as vaccine and diagnostic platforms but also as novel biological control agents due to their ability to modulate arbovirus transmission. While arboviruses infect both vertebrate and invertebrate hosts, the replication of insect-specific viruses is restricted in vertebrates at multiple stages of virus replication. The vertebrate restriction factors include the genetic elements of ISVs (structural and non-structural genes and the untranslated terminal regions), vertebrate host factors (agonists and antagonists), and the temperature-dependent microenvironment. A better understanding of these bottlenecks is thus warranted. In this review, we explore these factors and the complex interplay between ISVs and their hosts contributing to this host restriction phenomenon.


African swine fever virus (ASFV) causes a lethal haemorrhagic disease of domestic pigs, against which there is no vaccine available. ASFV has a large, double-stranded DNA genome that encodes over 150 proteins. Replication takes place predominantly in the cytoplasm of the cell and involves complex interactions with host cellular components including small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs). A number of DNA viruses are known to manipulate sncRNA either by encoding their own or disrupting host sncRNA. In order to investigate the interplay between ASFV and sncRNAs, a study of host and viral small RNAs extracted from ASFV-infected primary porcine macrophages (PAMs) was undertaken. We discovered that ASFV infection had only a modest effect on host miRNAs, with only 6 miRNAs differentially expressed during infection. The data also revealed 3 potential novel small RNAs encoded by ASFV, ASFVsRNA1-3. Further investigation of ASFVsRNA2 detected it in lymphoid tissue from pigs with ASF. Overexpression of ASFVsRNA2 led to up to a 1 log reduction in ASFV growth indicating that ASFV utilises a virally-encoded small RNA to disrupt its own replication.IMPORTANCE African swine fever (ASF) poses a major threat to pig populations and food security worldwide. The disease is endemic in Africa and Eastern Europe and rapidly emerging into Asia where it has led to the deaths of over a million pigs in the last 12 months. The development of safe and effective vaccines to protect pigs against ASF has been hindered by lack of understanding of the complex interactions between ASFV and the host cell. We focused our work on characterising the interactions between ASFV and sncRNAs. Although comparatively modest changes to host sncRNA abundances were observed upon ASFV infection, we discovered and characterised a novel functional ASFV-encoded sncRNA. The results from this study add important insights into ASFV host-pathogen interactions. This knowledge may be exploited to develop more effective ASFV vaccines that take advantage of the sncRNA system.


Indirect transmission via a contaminated environment can occur for a number of pathogens, even those typically thought of as being directly transmitted, such as influenza virus, norovirus, bovine tuberculosis, or foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV). Indirect transmission facilitates spread from multiple sources beyond the infectious host, complicating the epidemiology and control of these diseases. This study carried out a series of transmission experiments to determine the dose-response relationship between environmental contamination and transmission of FMDV in cattle from measurements of viral shedding and rates of environmental contamination and survival. Seven out of ten indirect exposures resulted in successful transmission. The basic reproduction number for environmental transmission of FMDV in this experimental setting was estimated at 1.65, indicating that environmental transmission alone could sustain an outbreak. Importantly, detection of virus in the environment prior to the appearance of clinical signs in infected cattle and successful transmission from these environments highlights there is a risk of environmental transmission even before foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is clinically apparent in cattle. Estimated viral decay rates suggest that FMDV remained viable in this environment for up to 14 days, emphasizing the requirement for stringent biosecurity procedures following outbreaks of FMD and the design of control measures that reflect the biology of a pathogen.IMPORTANCE Effective control of a disease relies on comprehensive understanding of how transmission occurs, in order to design and apply effective control measures. Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is primarily spread by direct contact between infected and naive individuals, although the high levels of virus shed by infected animals mean that virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated environments. Using a series of transmission experiments, we demonstrate that environmental transmission alone would be sufficient to sustain an outbreak. Key observations include that a risk of transmission exists before clinical signs of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) are apparent in cattle and that survival of virus in the environment extends the transmission risk period. This study highlights the role a contaminated environment can play in the transmission of FMDV and presents approaches that can also be applied to study the transmission of other pathogens that are able to survive in the environment.


Filter Publications

Trim content

® The Pirbright Institute 2020 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.