This study investigated the co-localization of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and its receptor dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) by immunohistochemistry (IHC) across respiratory and lymphoid organs of experimentally MERS-CoV infected pigs and llamas. Also, scanning electron microscopy was performed to assess the ciliary integrity of respiratory epithelial cells in both species. In pigs, on day 2 post-inoculation (p.i.), DPP4-MERS-CoV co-localization was detected in medial turbinate epithelium. On day 4 p.i., the virus/receptor co-localized in frontal and medial turbinate epithelial cells in pigs, and epithelial cells distributed unevenly through the whole nasal cavity and in the cervical lymph node in llamas. MERS-CoV viral nucleocapsid was mainly detected in upper respiratory tract sites on days 2 and 4 p.i. in pigs and day 4 p.i. in llamas. No MERS-CoV was detected on day 24 p.i. in any tissue by IHC. While pigs showed severe ciliary loss in the nasal mucosa both on days 2 and 4 p.i. and moderate loss in the trachea on days 4 and 24 p.i., ciliation of respiratory organs in llamas was not significantly affected. Obtained data confirm the role of DPP4 for MERS-CoV entry in respiratory epithelial cells of llamas. Notably, several nasal epithelial cells in pigs were found to express viral antigen but not DPP4, suggesting the possible existence of other molecule/s facilitating virus entry or down regulation of DPP4 upon infection.

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Keywords dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4), immunohistochemistry, llama, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), pig, scanning electron microscopy
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Journal Transboundary and Emerging Diseases
Te, N. (Nigeer), Vergara-Alert, J. (Júlia), Lehmbecker, A. (Annika), Pérez, M. (Mónica), Haagmans, B.L, Baumgärtner, V, … Segalés, J. (2018). Co-localization of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 in the respiratory tract and lymphoid tissues of pigs and llamas. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases. doi:10.1111/tbed.13092