Resistance to Rift Valley fever virus in Rattus norvegicus: Genetic variability within certain 'inbred' strains

M. Ritter, M. Bouloy, P. Vialat, C. Janzen, O. Haller, M. Frese

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Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is the causative agent of Rift Valley fever, a widespread disease of domestic animals and humans in sub-Saharan Africa. Laboratory rats have frequently been used as an animal model for studying the pathogenesis of Rift Valley fever. It is shown here that Lewis rats (LEW/mol) are susceptible to infection with RVFV, whereas Wistar-Furth (WF/mol) rats are resistant to RVFV infection. LEW/mol rats developed acute hepatitis and died after infection with RVFV strain ZH548, whereas WF/mol rats survived the infection. Cross-breeding of resistant WF/mol rats with susceptible LEW/mol rats demonstrated that resistance is segregated as a single dominant gene. Primary hepatocytes but not glial cells from WF/mol rats showed the resistant phenotype in cell culture, indicating that resistance was cell type-specific. Moreover, when cultured hepatocytes were stimulated with interferon (IFN) type I there was no indication of a regulatory role of IFN in the RVFV-resistance gene expression in WF/mol rats. Interestingly, previous reports have shown that LEW rats from a different breeding stock (LEW/mai) are resistant to RVFV infections, whereas WF/mai rats are susceptible. Thus, inbred rat strains seem to differ in virus susceptibility depending on their breeding histories. A better genetic characterization of inbred rat strains and a revision in nomenclature is needed to improve animal experimentation in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2683-2688
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of General Virology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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