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Genetic Basis for Sensitivity of Neonates to Retroviruses

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? DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant) Rare humans demonstrate resistance to retroviral infections. Although GWAS studies point at genetic loci that are behind the resistance, pinpointing resistance genes in humans is too complicated, and so far has not led to any clear results. At the same time, inbred mice offer a great alternative for mapping mammalian genes responsible for resistance and susceptibility to retroviruses. Our group has described a locus named 'virus infectivity controller 1' (vic1) in mice from the I/LnJ strain. The vic1 locus contains a recessive retrovirus resistance-conferring gene mapped to Chromosome 17. vic1 confers resistance to two distinct retroviruses: MuLV and a Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus (MMTV). Using congenic and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic and computational approaches we fine-mapped the vic1 locus to a 32Kb region and identified a non- classical major histocompatibility class II (MHC class II) gene, H2-Ob (Ob) as the gene encoding for Vic1. The evolutionarily conserved Ob encodes the O? molecule, a part of a heterodimer with O?, which together compose the DO molecule. It is thought that DO interacts with the DM?DM? dimer, modifying its ability to edit the loading of antigenic peptides onto classical MHC class II molecules in endocytic compartments. The precise function of DO is unclear, but it appears to affect the repertoire of antigenic peptides presented to T cells. This is in agreement with our finding that the I/LnJ Ob allele promotes a broad-spectrum Ab response in infected mice correlating with very low levels of Ob protein in I/LnJ mice. We have shown that this is due to a reduced inhibitory effect of O? on antigen presentation. When the I/LnJ Ob allele was moved to several virus-susceptible backgrounds, such as C3H/HeN, B6 and BALB/cJ, it conferred the ability to produce virus-neutralizing Abs to these mice. However, the effect had high penetrance only if these animals were infected as adults. In contrast, I/LnJ mice produce virus-neutralizing Abs irrespective of their age at infectin and even when infected as newborns. We have found that the ability to respond to the virus as neonates was linked to a single dominant locus (vic2) mapped to a 30 Mb region of Chromosome 15. vic2 is a modifier of Ob and inheritance of both Ob and vic2 of the I/LnJ origin confers the ability to produce anti-virus Abs to neonatal mice from all susceptible strains. Retroviruses infect adults, but are also passed from mothers to newborns during birth and through breastfeeding. It is commonly accepted that the immune system of a newborn is undeveloped, increasing the risk of infection and impairing responses to many vaccines. However, I/LnJ mice generate virus-neutralizing immune response independently of the age at which they were exposed to the pathogen. Thus, it is fundamentally important to unravel the mechanism of Vic2 function in order to understand the unknown features of the neonate immune system and to reach the goal of high efficacy of early-life vaccination.
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