Avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) poses economic threat to the poultry industry worldwide. Pathogenic IBV 3575/08 was isolated from broilers vaccinated with the attenuated viral vaccine derived from a Taiwan strain 2575/98. In this study, extensive investigations were conducted on the genome sequences, antigenicity, pathogenicity, and host immune responses of several IBV strains in specific-pathogen-free chickens. Sequence analyses revealed that 3575/08 and 2575/98 shared high homology in their structural genes, but not in non-structural accessory proteins such as 3a, 3b and 5b. Despite a high degree of homology in their spike protein genes, cross neutralization test showed low cross protection between 3575/08 and 2575/98, suggesting distinct antigenicity for the two strains. Animal challenge experiments exhibited strong respiratory and renal pathogenicity for 3575/08. In addition, early and prolonged viral shedding and rapid viral dissemination were observed. Immune gene expression profiling by PCR array showed chickens infected with 3575/08 had delayed expression of a subset of early innate immune genes, whereas chickens infected with the wild-type or attenuated-type 2575/08 revealed quick gene induction and efficient virus control. In summary, this study reveals a new IBV strain, which harbors a known local genotype but displays remarkably altered antigenicity, pathogenicity and host defenses.
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