Synergistic viral replication of Marek's disease virus and avian leukosis virus subgroup J is responsible for the enhanced pathogenicity in the superinfection of chickens

Superinfection of Marek's disease virus (MDV) and avian leukosis virus subgroup J (ALV-J) causes lethal neoplasia and death in chickens. However, whether there is synergism between the two viruses in viral replication and pathogenicity has remained elusive. In this study, we found that the superinfection of MDV and ALV-J increased the viral replication of the two viruses in RNA and protein level, and synergistically promoted the expression of IL-10, IL-6, and TGF-β in chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEF). Moreover, MDV and ALV-J protein expression in dual-infected cells detected by confocal laser scanning microscope appeared earlier in the cytoplasm and the nucleus, and caused more severe cytopathy than single infection, suggesting that synergistically increased MDV and ALV-J viral-protein biosynthesis is responsible for the severe cytopathy. In vivo, compared to the single virus infected chickens, the mortality and tumor formation rates increased significantly in MDV and ALV-J dual-infected chickens. Viral loads of MDV and ALV-J in tissues of dual-infected chickens were significantly higher than those of single-infected chickens. Histopathology observation showed that more severe inflammation and tumor cells metastases were present in dual-infected chickens. In the present study, we concluded that synergistic viral replication of MDV and ALV-J is responsible for the enhanced pathogenicity in superinfection of chickens.

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