Although research related to avian leukosis virus subgroup J (ALV-J) has lasted for more than a century, the systematic identification of host immune key factors against ALV-J infection has not been reported. In this study, we establish an infection model in which four-week-old SPF chickens are infected with ALV-J strain CHN06, after which the host immune response is detected. We found that the expression of two antiviral interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) (Mx1 and IFIT5) were increased in ALV-J infected peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). A significant CD8+ T cell response induced by ALV-J appeared as early as seven days post-infection (DPI), and humoral immunity starting from 21 DPI differed greatly in the time scale of induction level. Meanwhile, the ALV-J viremia was significantly decreased before antibody production at 14 DPI, and eliminated at 21 DPI under a very low antibody level. The up-regulated CD8+ T cell in the thymus (14DPI) and PBL (7 DPI and 21 DPI) was detected, indicating that the thymus may provide the output of CD8+ T cell to PBL, which was related to virus clearance. Besides, up-regulated chemokine CXCLi1 at 7 DPI in PBL was observed, which may be related to the migration of the CD8+ T cell from the thymus to PBL. More importantly, the CD8 high+ T cell response of the CD8αβ phenotype may produce granzyme K, NK lysin, or IFN-γ for clearing viruses. These findings provide novel insights and direction for developing effective ALV-J vaccines.
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