Like other pathogens that readily persist in animal hosts, members of the Bornaviridae family have evolved effective mechanisms to evade the innate immune response. The prototype of this virus family, Borna disease virus employs an unusual replication strategy that removes the triphosphates from the 5’ termini of the viral RNA genome. This strategy allows the virus to avoid activation of RIG-I and other innate immune response receptors in infected cells. Here we determined whether the newly discovered avian bornaviruses (ABV) might use a similar strategy to evade the interferon response. We found that de novo
infection of QM7 and CEC32 quail cells with two different ABV strains was efficiently inhibited by exogenous chicken IFN-α. IFN-α also reduced the viral load in QM7 and CEC32 cells persistently infected with both ABV strains, suggesting that ABV is highly sensitive to type I IFN. Although quail cells persistently infected with ABV contained high levels of viral RNA, the supernatants of infected cultures did not contain detectable levels of biologically active type I IFN. RNA from cells infected with ABV failed to induce IFN-β synthesis if transfected into human cells. Furthermore, genomic RNA of ABV was susceptible to 5’-monophosphate-specific RNase, suggesting that it lacks 5’-triphospates like BDV. These results indicate that bornaviruses of mammals and birds use similar strategies to evade the host immune response.