Toll like receptor (TLR) 3 is a critically important innate pattern recognizing receptor that senses many viral infections. Although, it has been shown that double stranded (ds) RNA can be used for the stimulation of TLR3 signaling pathway in a number of host-viral infection models, it’s effectiveness as an antiviral agent against low pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAIV) needs further investigation.
In this study, first, we delivered TLR3 ligand, dsRNA, in ovo at embryo day (ED)18 since in ovo route is routinely used for vaccination against poultry viral and parasitic infections and infected with H4N6 LPAIV 24-h post-treatment. A subset of in ovo dsRNA treated and control groups were observed for the expressions of TLR3 and type I interferon (IFN)s, mRNA expression of interleukin (IL)-1β and macrophage recruitment coinciding with the time of H4N6 LPAIV infection (24 h post-treatment). Additionally, Day 1 chickens were given dsRNA intra-tracheally along with a control group and a subset of chickens were infected with H4N6 LPAIV 24-h post-treatment whereas the rest of the animals were observed for macrophage and type 1 IFN responses coinciding with the time of viral infection.
Our results demonstrate that the pre-hatch treatment of eggs with dsRNA reduces H4N6 replication in lungs. Further studies revealed that in ovo delivery of dsRNA increases TLR3 expression, type I IFN production and number of macrophages in addition to mRNA expression of IL-1β in lung 24-h post-treatment. The same level of induction of innate response was not evident in the spleen. Moreover, we discovered that dsRNA elicits antiviral response against LPAIV correlating with type I IFN activity in macrophages in vitro. Post-hatch, we found no difference in H4N6 LPAIV genome loads between dsRNA treated and control chickens although we observed higher macrophage recruitment and IFN-β response coinciding with the time of viral infection.