Zika virus infection was recently linked to microcephaly and peripheral neuropathy (GBS) in Zika virus epidemic areas. Building on our previous work (Cumberworth , 2017) we investigated, in a time-course study, how the viral infection and the injury of cell processes of oligodendrocytes and neurons are related to each other in the same model.

We generated CNS myelinating cultures from a reporter mouse (Thy1-YFP) on the Ifnar1 -/-background. A proportion of neurons and their processes are positive for YFP in those cultures, which enabled us to visualise single neurons. Cultures were infected with the Brazilian Zika virus strain (PE243) at an MOI of 0.3 and cultured for up to 6 days post infection. We observed that the neuronal cell processes were affected as early as the appearance of the first clusters of infected glial cells.

To analyse the interrelation of neurons and myelin further, cultures were labeled with an antibody recognising proteolipid protein. We found that the myelin got injured as early as neuronal processes. These results suggest that the injury to neuronal processes might be a consequence of the infection of the primary target of Zika virus: oligodendroglia.

These data help us to understand disease pathogenesis of Zika virus infection of the CNS, and whether there is a time-window to intervene therapeutically. Furthermore, this gives an insight as to how viral infection of glial cells can affect neuronal processes such as axons.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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