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FeMV is a cathepsin-dependent unique morbillivirus infecting the kidneys of domestic cats

Nambulli, S., Rennick, L.J., Acciardo, A.S., Tilston-Lunel, N.L., Ho, G., Crossland, N.A., Hardcastle, K., Nieto, B., Bainbridge, G., Williams, T., Sharp, C.R.ORCID: 0000-0002-1797-9783 and Duprex, W.P. (2022) FeMV is a cathepsin-dependent unique morbillivirus infecting the kidneys of domestic cats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 (43). Art. e2209405119.

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Feline morbillivirus (FeMV) is a recently discovered pathogen of domestic cats and has been classified as a morbillivirus in the Paramyxovirus family. We determined the complete sequence of FeMVUS5 directly from an FeMV-positive urine sample without virus isolation or cell passage. Sequence analysis of the viral genome revealed potential divergence from characteristics of archetypal morbilliviruses. First, the virus lacks the canonical polybasic furin cleavage signal in the fusion (F) glycoprotein. Second, conserved amino acids in the hemagglutinin (H) glycoprotein used by all other morbilliviruses for binding and/or fusion activation with the cellular receptor CD150 (signaling lymphocyte activation molecule [SLAM]/F1) are absent. We show that, despite this sequence divergence, FeMV H glycoprotein uses feline CD150 as a receptor and cannot use human CD150. We demonstrate that the protease responsible for cleaving the FeMV F glycoprotein is a cathepsin, making FeMV a unique morbillivirus and more similar to the closely related zoonotic Nipah and Hendra viruses. We developed a reverse genetics system for FeMVUS5 and generated recombinant viruses expressing Venus fluorescent protein from an additional transcription unit located either between the phospho-protein (P) and matrix (M) genes or the H and large (L) genes of the genome. We used these recombinant FeMVs to establish a natural infection and demonstrate that FeMV causes an acute morbillivirus-like disease in the cat. Virus was shed in the urine and detectable in the kidneys at later time points. This opens the door for long-term studies to address the postulated role of this morbillivirus in the development of chronic kidney disease.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Veterinary Medicine
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
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