Bluetongue virus (BTV) is the cause of bluetongue, an emerging, arthropod-transmitted disease of ungulates. Bluetongue is characterized by vascular injury with hemorrhage, tissue infarction and widespread edema, lesions that are consistent with those of the so-called viral hemorrhagic fevers. To further investigate the pathogenesis of vascular injury in bluetongue, we utilized an electrical impedance assay and immunofluorescence staining to compare the effects of BTV infection on cultured bovine endothelial cells (bPAEC) with those of inducers of cell death (Triton X-100) and interendothelial gap formation (tissue necrosis factor [TNF]). The data confirm that the adherens junctions of BTV-infected bPAECs remained intact until 24. h post-infection, and that loss of monolayer impedance precisely coincided with onset of virus-induced cell death. In contrast, recombinant bovine TNF-α caused rapid loss of bPAEC monolayer impedance that was associated with interendothelial gap formation and redistribution of VE-cadherin, but without early cell death. The data from these in vitro studies are consistent with a pathogenesis of bluetongue that involves virus-induced vascular injury leading to thrombosis, hemorrhage and tissue necrosis. However, the contribution of cytokine-induced interendothelial gap formation with subsequent edema and hypovolemic shock contributes to the pathogenesis of bluetongue remains to be fully characterized.
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