BACKGROUND: Knowledge of factors that influence the outcome of infection are crucial for determining the risk of severe disease and requires the characterisation of pathogen-host interactions that have evolved to confer variable susceptibility to infection. Cattle infected by Theileria annulata show a wide range in disease severity. Native (Bos indicus) Sahiwal cattle are tolerant to infection, whereas exotic (Bos taurus) Holstein cattle are susceptible to acute disease.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We used RNA-seq to assess whether Theileria infected cell lines from Sahiwal cattle display a different transcriptome profile compared to Holstein and screened for altered expression of parasite factors that could generate differences in host cell gene expression. Significant differences (<0.1 FDR) in the expression level of a large number (2211) of bovine genes were identified, with enrichment of genes associated with Type I IFN, cholesterol biosynthesis, oncogenesis and parasite infection. A screen for parasite factors found limited evidence for differential expression. However, the number and location of DNA motifs bound by the TashAT2 factor (TA20095) were found to differ between the genomes of B. indicus vs. B. taurus, and divergent motif patterns were identified in infection-associated genes differentially expressed between Sahiwal and Holstein infected cells.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We conclude that divergent pathogen-host molecular interactions that influence chromatin architecture of the infected cell are a major determinant in the generation of gene expression differences linked to disease susceptibility.