Bats have gained attention in recent years as reservoir or suspected reservoir hosts of many high-impact human pathogenic viruses that cause outbreaks and epidemics with high case-fatality rates. Genome and transcriptome analyses suggest the immune systems of bats are substantially similar to those of other mammals. However differences in the overall immunological response to viral exposure exist?allowing for bats to remain resistant viral reservoirs, while other mammals are highly susceptible. Due to the dearth of available antibody reagents to monitor the abundance of cytokines during infection, little research into their immune systems and responses has been conducted. Gene expression analyses can provide some indication of cytokine levels, however quantitation of immune proteins at multiple time-points during infection, in conjunction with end-point RNA analysis, would be ideal. The lack of available bat antibody reagents poses a unique challenge in fully characterizing the immune response to infectious agents in this animal model. To overcome this hurdle, we aim to generate highly sensitive and specific targeted mass spectrometry assays to detect and quantify immune proteins in complex matrices, such as biological fluids and tissue homogenates, from nave bats and those infected with virus.
There is currently no method for monitoring the level of immune proteins in the bat, which is a major hurdle in understanding their role as a viral reservoir. This proposal seeks to create highly sensitive and specific targeted mass spectrometry assays to identify and quantitate the immune response in bats. Ultimately, these assays will be instrumental in understanding the cytokine levels prior to and after viral exposure.