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ArticleEndogenous retroviruses augment amphibian (Xenopus laevis) tadpole antiviral protection(American Society for Microbiology, 2022-05-16) Kalia, Namarta ; Hauser, Kelsey A. ; Burton, Sarah ; Hossainey, Muhammad Riadul Haque ; Zelle, Mira ; Horb, Marko E. ; Grayfer, LeonThe global amphibian declines are compounded by infections with members of the Ranavirus genus such as Frog Virus 3 (FV3). Premetamorphic anuran amphibians are believed to be significantly more susceptible to FV3 while this pathogen targets the kidneys of both pre- and postmetamorphic animals. Paradoxically, FV3-challenged Xenopus laevis tadpoles exhibit lower kidney viral loads than adult frogs. Presently, we demonstrate that X. laevis tadpoles are intrinsically more resistant to FV3 kidney infections than cohort-matched metamorphic and postmetamorphic froglets and that this resistance appears to be epigenetically conferred by endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Using a X. laevis kidney-derived cell line, we show that enhancing ERV gene expression activates cellular double-stranded RNA-sensing pathways, resulting in elevated mRNA levels of antiviral interferon (IFN) cytokines and thus greater anti-FV3 protection. Finally, our results indicate that large esterase-positive myeloid-lineage cells, rather than renal cells, are responsible for the elevated ERV/IFN axis seen in the tadpole kidneys. This conclusion is supported by our observation that CRISPR-Cas9 ablation of colony-stimulating factor-3 results in abolished homing of these myeloid cells to tadpole kidneys, concurrent with significantly abolished tadpole kidney expression of both ERVs and IFNs. We believe that the manuscript marks an important step forward in understanding the mechanisms controlling amphibian antiviral defenses and thus susceptibility and resistance to pathogens like FV3.