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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Preliminary insights into the genetics of bank vole tolerance to Puumala hantavirus in Sweden

Rohfritsch, Audrey; Galan, Maxime; Gautier, Mathieu; Gharbi, Karim; Olsson, Gert; Gschloessl, Bernhard; Zeimes, Caroline; VanWambeke, Sophie; Vitalis, Renaud; Charbonnel, Nathalie


Natural reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens generally seem to be capable of tolerating infections. Tolerance and its underlying mechanisms remain difficult to assess using experiments or wildlife surveys. High-throughput sequencing technologies give the opportunity to investigate the genetic bases of tolerance, and the variability of its mechanisms in natural populations. In particular, population genomics may provide preliminary insights into the genes shaping tolerance and potentially influencing epidemiological dynamics. Here, we addressed these questions in the bank vole Myodes glareolus, the specific asymptomatic reservoir host of Puumala hantavirus (PUUV), which causes nephropathia epidemica (NE) in humans. Despite the continuous spatial distribution of M. glareolus in Sweden, NE is endemic to the northern part of the country. Northern bank vole populations in Sweden might exhibit tolerance strategies as a result of coadaptation with PUUV. This may favor the circulation and maintenance of PUUV and lead to high spatial risk of NE in northern Sweden. We performed a genome-scan study to detect signatures of selection potentially correlated with spatial variations in tolerance to PUUV. We analyzed six bank vole populations from Sweden, sampled from northern NE-endemic to southern NE-free areas. We combined candidate gene analyses (Tlr4, Tlr7, and Mx2 genes) and high-throughput sequencing of restriction site-associated DNA (RAD) markers. Outlier loci showed high levels of genetic differentiation and significant associations with environmental data including variations in the regional number of NE human cases. Among the 108 outliers that matched to mouse protein-coding genes, 14 corresponded to immune-related genes. The main biological pathways found to be significantly enriched corresponded to immune processes and responses to hantavirus, including the regulation of cytokine productions, TLR cascades, and IL-7, VEGF, and JAK-STAT signaling. In the future, genome-scan replicates and functional experimentations should enable to assess the role of these biological pathways in M. glareolus tolerance to PUUV.


adaptation; hantavirus; immunity; molecular epidemiology; RAD sequencing; selection; tolerance; voles

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2018, volume: 8, number: 22, pages: 11273-11292
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Rohfritsch, Audrey
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
Galan, Maxime
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
Gautier, Mathieu
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
Gharbi, Karim
Earlham Inst
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies
Gschloessl, Bernhard
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
Zeimes, Caroline
Universite Catholique Louvain
VanWambeke, Sophie
Universite Catholique Louvain
Vitalis, Renaud
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
Charbonnel, Nathalie
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

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