Human cerebral microvascular endothelial cells (hCMEC/D3 cell line) form a steady polarized barrier when cultured on a permeable membrane. Their susceptibility to enterovirus (EV) strains was analysed to investigate how these viruses may cross the blood–brain barrier. A sample of 88 virus strains was selected on phylogenetic features amongst 43 epidemiologically relevant types of the four EV species A–D. The EV-A71 genome was replicated at substantial rates, whilst the infectious virus was released at extremely low but sustained rates at both barrier sides for at least 4 days. EV-A71 antigens were detected in a limited number of cells. The properties of the endothelial barrier (structure and permeability) remained intact throughout infection. The chronic EV-A71 infection was in sharp contrast to the productive infection of cytolytic EVs (e.g. echoviruses E-6 and E-30). The hCMEC/D3 barriers infected with the latter EVs exhibited elevated proportions of apoptotic and necrotic cells, which resulted in major injuries to the endothelial barriers with a dramatic increase of paracellular permeability and virus crossing to the abluminal side. The following intracellular rearrangements were also seen: early destruction of the actin cytoskeleton, remodelling of intracellular membranes and reorganization of the mitochondrion network in a small cluster near the perinuclear space.


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