Acta Neuropathologica Communications Neuroscience of Disease, June 2017

Stephanie L. Cumberworth†, Jennifer A. Barrie†, Madeleine E. Cunningham, Daniely Paulino Gomes de Figueiredo, Verena Schultz, Adrian J. Wilder-Smith, Benjamin Brennan, Lindomar J. Pena, Rafael Freitas de Oliveira França, Christopher Linington, Susan C. Barnett, Hugh J. Willison, Alain Kohl† and Julia M. Edgar†

†Contributed equally


The recent global outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection has been linked to severe neurological disorders affecting the peripheral and central nervous systems (PNS and CNS, respectively). The pathobiology underlying these diverse clinical phenotypes are the subject of intense research; however, even the principal neural cell types vulnerable to productive Zika infection remain poorly characterised. Here we used CNS and PNS myelinating cultures from wild type and Ifnar1 knockout mice to examine neuronal and glial tropism and short-term consequences of direct infection with a Brazilian variant of ZIKV. Cell cultures were infected pre- or post-myelination for various intervals, then stained with cell-type and ZIKV-specific antibodies. In bypassing systemic immunity using ex vivo culture, and the type I interferon response in Ifnar1 deficient cells, we were able to evaluate the intrinsic infectivity of neural cells. Through systematic quantification of ZIKV infected cells in myelinating cultures, we found that ZIKV infection is enhanced in the absence of the type I interferon responses and that CNS cells are considerably more susceptible to infection than PNS cells. In particular, we demonstrate that CNS axons and myelinating oligodendrocytes are especially vulnerable to injury. These results have implications for understanding the pathobiology of neurological symptoms associated with ZIKV infection. Furthermore, we provide a quantifiable ex vivo infection model that can be used for fundamental and therapeutic studies on viral neuroinvasion and its consequences.

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