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Journal of Virology


American Society for Microbiology

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Several clade B New World arenaviruses (NWAs) can cause severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever, for which preventive and therapeutic measures are severely limited. These NWAs use human transferrin receptor 1 (hTfR1) as a host cell receptor for virus entry. The most prevalent of the pathogenic NWAs is Junín virus (JUNV), the etiological agent of Argentine hemorrhagic fever. Small animal models of JUNV infection are limited because most laboratory rodent species are refractory to disease. Only guinea pigs are known to develop disease following JUNV infection, but the underlying mechanisms are not well characterized. In the present study, we demonstrate marked susceptibility of Hartley guinea pigs to uniformly lethal disease when challenged with as few as 4 plaque-forming units of the Romero strain of JUNV. In vitro, we show that infection of primary guinea pig macrophages results in greater JUNV replication compared to infection of hamster or mouse macrophages. We provide evidence that the guinea pig TfR1 (gpTfR1) is the principal receptor for JUNV, while hamster and mouse orthologs fail to support viral entry/infection of pseudotyped murine leukemia viruses expressing pathogenic NWA glycoproteins or JUNV. Together, our results indicate that gpTfR1 serves as the primary receptor for pathogenic NWAs, enhancing viral infection in guinea pigs.

IMPORTANCE JUNV is one of five known NWAs that cause viral hemorrhagic fever in humans. Countermeasures against JUNV infection are limited to immunization with the Candid#1 vaccine and immune plasma, which are available only in Argentina. The gold standard small animal model for JUNV infection is the guinea pig. Here, we demonstrate high sensitivity of this species to severe JUNV infection and identify gpTfR1 as the primary receptor. Use of hTfR1 for host cell entry is a feature shared by pathogenic NWAs. Our results show that expression of gpTfR1 or hTfR1 comparably enhances JUNV virus entry/infectivity. Our findings shed light on JUNV infection in guinea pigs as a model for human disease and suggest that similar pathophysiological mechanisms related to iron sequestration during infection and regulation of TfR1 expression may be shared between humans and guinea pigs. A better understanding of the underlying disease process will guide development of new therapeutic interventions.

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