Bats have attracted attention in recent years as important reservoirs of viruses deadly to humans and other mammals. These infections are typically nonpathogenic in bats raising questions about innate immune differences that might exist between bats and other mammals. The APOBEC3 gene family encodes antiviral DNA cytosine deaminases with important roles in the suppression of diverse viruses and genomic parasites. Here we characterize pteropid APOBEC3 genes and show that species within the genus Pteropus possess the largest and most diverse array of APOBEC3 genes identified in any mammal reported to date. Several bat APOBEC3 proteins are antiviral as demonstrated by restriction of retroviral infectivity using HIV-1 as a model, and recombinant A3Z1 subtypes possess strong DNA deaminase activity. These genes represent the first group of antiviral restriction factors identified in bats with extensive diversification relative to homologues in other mammals.
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This study was supported by Perpetual Trustees (AR/00255 to G.T. and L-F.W), the Australian Postgraduate
Award and the Monash University Vice Chancellor’s Honours-PhD scholarship (to J.A.H), the National Health
and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship (APP1117748 to G.T.), the National Research
Foundation-Competitive Research Programme (NRF2012NRF-CRP001-056 to L-FW), and the National
Institute of Health and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (R37AI064046 to R.S.H) . R.S.H. is
an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and J.C. is funded by the Global Recruitment of
Pioneer Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The authors gratefully acknowledge
the contribution to this work of the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program by the Burnet Institute.