Bats harbor many emerging and reemerging viruses, several of which are highly pathogenic in other mammals but cause no clinical signs of disease in bats. To determine the role of interferons (IFNs) in the ability of bats to coexist with viruses, we sequenced the type I IFN locus of the Australian black flying fox, Pteropus alecto, providing what is, to our knowledge, the first gene map of the IFN region of any bat species. Our results reveal a highly contracted type I IFN family consisting of only 10 IFNs, including three functional IFN-α loci. Furthermore, the three IFN-α genes are constitutively expressed in unstimulated bat tissues and cells and their expression is unaffected by viral infection. Constitutively expressed IFN-α results in the induction of a subset of IFN-stimulated genes associated with antiviral activity and resistance to DNA damage, providing evidence for a unique IFN system that may be linked to the ability of bats to coexist with viruses.
- innate immunity
- bat immunology