The Egyptian Rousette Genome Reveals Unexpected Features of Bat Antiviral Immunity

Stephanie S. Pavlovich, Sean P. Lovett, Galina Koroleva, Jonathan C. Guito, Catherine E. Arnold, Elyse R. Nagle, Kirsten Kulcsar, Albert Lee, Françoise Thibaud-Nissen, Adam J. Hume, Elke Mühlberger, Luke S. Uebelhoer, Jonathan S. Towner, Raul Rabadan, Mariano Sanchez-Lockhart, Thomas B. Kepler, Gustavo Palacios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Bats harbor many viruses asymptomatically, including several notorious for causing extreme virulence in humans. To identify differences between antiviral mechanisms in humans and bats, we sequenced, assembled, and analyzed the genome of Rousettus aegyptiacus, a natural reservoir of Marburg virus and the only known reservoir for any filovirus. We found an expanded and diversified KLRC/KLRD family of natural killer cell receptors, MHC class I genes, and type I interferons, which dramatically differ from their functional counterparts in other mammals. Such concerted evolution of key components of bat immunity is strongly suggestive of novel modes of antiviral defense. An evaluation of the theoretical function of these genes suggests that an inhibitory immune state may exist in bats. Based on our findings, we hypothesize that tolerance of viral infection, rather than enhanced potency of antiviral defenses, may be a key mechanism by which bats asymptomatically host viruses that are pathogenic in humans. The genome of the Egyptian fruit bat reveals how its immune defenses allow tolerance of pathogenic viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1098-1110.e18
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 17 2018


  • Chiroptera
  • antiviral immunity
  • filovirus
  • genome
  • innate immunity
  • natural killer cell receptors
  • type I interferon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'The Egyptian Rousette Genome Reveals Unexpected Features of Bat Antiviral Immunity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this