What do humans and cats have in common? Apart from a liking for tuna and a tendency to get sleepy on a Sunday afternoon, both are AIDS-susceptible species, and researchers in the USA and Japan are looking at feline genome manipulation as a route to create better models for HIV and other infectious and non-infectious diseases.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic used gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis to transfect the feline egg cells with a gene for the restriction factor, TRIMCyp, along with a jellyfish gene as a fluorescent reporter gene to track the efficacy of transfection, before fertilisation in vitro. This was the first success of this technique in a carnivore.
Of 22 attempts, five were successful, and three kittens survived, all of which glowed under ultraviolet light, confirming the presence of the gene. This was a 23% success rate, higher than that seen in somatic cell nuclear transfer. The proteins were made throughout the cats’ bodies, and gene was successfully passed on when two of the transfected cats had offspring. The research was published in Nature Methods.
The restriction factor used arose naturally in macaques and blocks retroviral replication, including feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), the lentivirus that causes feline AIDS. FIV did not replicate well in blood cells taken from the kittens, and researchers plan to see if the cats will resist FIV infection.
The glowing kittens are undeniably cute, and while the research is focused on creating better models for HIV, the outcome could have an upside for the cats too, by leading to ways to prevent and treat FIV, which affects 2.5-4.4% of cats worldwide.
We welcome today’s guest post from Suzanne Elvidge, editor of the Genome Engineering blog