The West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus causing meningoencephalitis in humans and animals. Due to their particular susceptibility to WNV infection, horses serve as a sentinel species. In a population of Romanian semi-feral horses living in the Danube delta region, we have analyzed the distribution of candidate polymorphic genetic markers between anti WNV-IgG seropositive and seronegative horses. Thirty-six SNPs located in 28 immunity-related genes and 26 microsatellites located in the MHC and LY49 complex genomic regions were genotyped in 57 seropositive and 32 seronegative horses. The most significant association (pcorr < 0.0002) was found for genotypes composed of markers of the SLC11A1 and TLR4 genes. Markers of five other candidate genes (ADAM17, CXCR3, IL12A, MAVS, TNFA), along with 5 MHC class I and LY49-linked microsatellites were also associated with the WNV antibody status in this model horse population. The OAS1 gene, previously associated with WNV-induced clinical disease, was not associated with the presence of anti-WNV antibodies.
Keywords: Horse; MHC; Microsatellite; NKR; Polymorphism; Restriction fragment length polymorphism; SLC11A1; TLR4; West Nile virus.