Bats are impressive. As the second most species-rich group of mammals (after rodents), they developed a lot of unique characteristics. They can fly, orient themselves with the help of an echo sounder and have extreme longevity in relation to their body size. They have also developed natural immunity and adaptability to a variety of life-threatening viruses. In one of our latest studies published in iScience, we investigated the transcriptome of cells from a small “microbat” species, Myotis daubentonii (Daubenton’s bat), in response to a viral infection or stimulation with Interferon alpha at 6h and 24h. This bat was first described in 1817 by Heinrich Kuhl, who named it in honour of French naturalist Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton.
Interferons are held responsible for the high tolerance of bats to zoonotic viruses such as Ebola, Coronaviruses, or the Rift Valley fever virus. However, earlier studies focused mainly on the interferon system of “megabats” (suborder Yinpterochiroptera) and less is known about “microbats” (suborder Yangochiroptera).
Using Illumina short-read RNA-Seq, we measured global cellular transcription at two different time points and from three biological replicates. We computationally analyzed this huge data set and present all results in a comprehensive online supplement . We also provide am interactive gene observer that allows other scientists to search for their favorite bat gene and its expression. Finally, we verified uniquely virus-regulated genes by RT-qPCR.
Our data reveal novel genes that are only triggered by the virus, either in both humans and Daubenton’s bat, or exclusively in Daubenton’s bat. Moreover, Daubenton’s bat expresses a series of conserved interferon-stimulated genes and an unusually high number of paralogs of the antiviral interferon-stimulated gene tetherin but lacks several megabat interferon-stimulated genes. Overall, we see apparent differences between the interferon systems of “microbats” and “megabats”.