Two antigenically related porcine coronaviruses, transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) which infects primarily the intestinal tract and causes severe diarrhea, and porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV) which infects the respiratory tract and causes subclinical or mild respiratory infections, presented a unique opportunity to study the interrelationship of gut-(GALT) and bronchus-associated lymphoid tissues (BALT) and their contribution to protective immunity against TGEV infection. Pigs were inoculated oral-nasally with TGEV or with PRCV at eleven days of age and challenged 24 days later with TGEV. All pigs initially given TGEV developed diarrhea and were completely protected against disease upon challenge. In contrast, pigs given PRCV had no clinical disease and shed virus in nasal secretions only; after challenge, 5 of 12 pigs developed diarrhea. Virus-specific IgG and IgA Ab-secreting cells (ASC) were enumerated by ELISPOT in the mesenteric and bronchial lymph nodes, spleens, and gut lamina propria at challenge and various post challenge days. Before challenge, in pigs exposed to TGEV, IgA-ASC in the duodenum and jejunum constituted the major ASC response. Conversely, PRCV-exposed pigs had mainly IgG-ASC in bronchial lymph nodes, with low ASC responses in the gut. After challenge, numbers of IgG-ASC increased rapidly in the gut lamina propria and mesenteric lymph nodes of only PRCV-primed pigs. Our results suggest that virus-specific IgG-ASC precursors derived in BALT of PRCV-primed pigs may migrate to the gut in response to TGEV challenge and contribute to the partial protection observed. The presence of IgA-ASC in the gut lamina propria of TGEV-primed pigs at the time of challenge correlated with complete protection against TGEV challenge. Thus a dichotomy exists in the BALT and GALT ASC responses; immunization via BALT induced a systemic type of response (IgG-ASC) and provided imperfect protection against an enteric pathogen, whereas immunization via GALT induced IgA-ASC and provided complete protection.

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