Increased and prolonged human norovirus infection in RAG2/IL2RG deficient gnotobiotic pigs with severe combined immunodeficiency
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Application of genetically engineered (GE) large animals carrying multi-allelic modifications has been hampered by low efficiency in production and extended gestation period compared to rodents. Here, we rapidly generated RAG2/IL2RG double knockout pigs using direct injection of CRISPR/Cas9 system into developing embryos. RAG2/IL2RG deficient pigs were immunodeficient, characterized by depletion of lymphocytes and either absence of or structurally abnormal immune organs. Pigs were maintained in gnotobiotic facility and evaluated for human norovirus (HuNoV) infection. HuNoV shedding lasted for 16 days in wild type pigs, compared to 27 days (until the end of trials) in RAG2/IL2RG deficient pigs. Additionally, higher HuNoV titers were detected in intestinal tissues and contents and in blood, indicating increased and prolonged HuNoV infection in RAG2/IL2RG deficient pigs and the importance of lymphocytes in HuNoV clearance. These results suggest that GE immunodeficient gnotobiotic pigs serve as a novel model for biomedical research and will facilitate HuNoV studies.