PMC, January 11, 2021

Verena Schultz, Stephanie L Cumberworth, Quan Gu, Natasha Johnson, Claire L Donald, George A McCanney, Jennifer A Barrie, Ana Da Silva Filipe, Christopher Linington, Hugh J Willison, Julia M Edgar, Susan C Barnett, Alain Kohl


Understanding how Zika virus (Flaviviridae; ZIKV) affects neural cells is paramount in comprehending pathologies associated with infection. Whilst the effects of ZIKV in neural development are well documented, impact on the adult nervous system remains obscure. Here, we investigated the effects of ZIKV infection in established mature myelinated central nervous system (CNS) cultures. Infection incurred damage to myelinated fibers, with ZIKV-positive cells appearing when myelin damage was first detected as well as axonal pathology, suggesting the latter was a consequence of oligodendroglia infection. Transcriptome analysis revealed host factors that were upregulated during ZIKV infection. One such factor, CCL5, was validated in vitro as inhibiting myelination. Transferred UV-inactivated media from infected cultures did not damage myelin and axons, suggesting that viral replication is necessary to induce the observed effects. These data show that ZIKV infection affects CNS cells even after myelination-which is critical for saltatory conduction and neuronal function-has taken place. Understanding the targets of this virus across developmental stages including the mature CNS, and the subsequent effects of infection of cell types, is necessary to understand effective time frames for therapeutic intervention.

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