, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 325-330
Date: 11 Oct 2009

A shared unusual genetic change at the chemokine receptor type 5 between Oryctolagus, Bunolagus and Pentalagus

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Whereas in most leporid species studied the effects of exposure to Myxoma virus (MV) are benign, in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) it causes an epizootic disease with particularly high mortality rates, known as myxomatosis. Chemokine receptors are known to play an important role in infection by large DNA viruses such as MV, by acting as portals for viral entry into the host cell. As with the human immunodeficiency virus, CCR5 is among the major candidates to affect resistance to myxomatosis. Previous sequence comparisons of the CCR5 gene among Leporid species revealed that a drastic change occurred at the second extracellular loop which was unique to the European rabbit species. Here we report that European rabbit shares this particular alteration with two of its closest relatives: the South African Riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) and the Japanese Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi). Both species represent monotypic genera and are included in the IUCN Red List as Endangered. It would then be urgent to study the susceptibility of these species to myxomatosis. Despite the lack of direct evidence that the altered CCR5 can affect the outcome of exposure to MV, the reported findings justify preventive measures to be considered.