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  • 1 South China Agricultural University College of Veterinary Medicine Guangzhou 510642 People’s Republic of China
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Infection of host cells with the influenza virus is mediated by specific interactions between the viral haemagglutinin (HA) and cell oligosaccharides containing sialic acid (SA) residues. Avian and human influenza viruses bind to alpha-2, 3 and alpha-2, 6 sialic acid-linked receptors, respectively. To date, there have been no detailed tissue distribution data on alpha-2, 3 and alpha-2, 6 sialic acid-linked receptors in the domestic cat, a relatively new mammalian host for influenza virus infections. In this study, the tissue distribution of human and avian type sialic acid influenza receptors was determined in various organs (respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, brain, cerebellum, spleen, kidney, heart and pancreas) of domestic cat by binding with the lectins Maackia amurensis agglutinin II (MAA II) and Sambucus nigra agglutinin (SNA), respectively. The results revealed that both alpha-2, 3 and alpha-2, 6 sialic acid-linked receptors were extensively detected in the trachea, bronchus, lung, kidney, spleen, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract. Endothelial cells of gastrointestinal tract organs were negative for alpha-2, 3 sialic acid-linked receptors in cats. The presence of alpha-2, 3 and alpha-2, 6 sialic acid-linked receptors in the major organs examined in the present study suggests that each major organ may be affected by influenza virus infection. Because of receptor distribution in the gastrointestinal tract, the experimental infection of cats with human influenza virus may be relatively easy while their infection with avian influenza virus may be difficult. These data can explain the involvement of multiple organs in influenza virus infection and should help investigators interpret the results obtained when cats are infected with influenza virus and estimate the risk of infection between cats and humans.

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