Diabetes is a significant risk factor for developing West Nile virus (WNV)-associated encephalitis (WNVE) in humans, the leading cause of arboviral encephalitis in the United States. Using a diabetic mouse model (db/db), we recently demonstrated that diabetes enhanced WNV replication and the susceptibility of mice to WNVE. Herein, we have examined immunological events in the brain of wild type (WT) and db/db mice after WNV infection. We hypothesized that WNV-induced migration of protective leukocytes into the brain is attenuated in the presence of diabetes, leading to a high viral load in the brain and severe disease in diabetic mice.
Characterizing the mechanisms by which West Nile virus (WNV) causes blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption, leukocyte infiltration into the brain and neuroinflammation is important to understand the pathogenesis of WNV encephalitis. Here, we examined the role of endothelial cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) in mediating the adhesion and transendothelial migration of leukocytes across human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMVE). Infection with WNV (NY99 strain) significantly induced ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and E-selectin in human endothelial cells and infected mice brain, although the levels of their ligands on leukocytes (VLA-4, LFA-1and MAC-1) did not alter. The permeability of the in vitro BBB model increased dramatically following the transmigration of monocytes and lymphocytes across the models infected with WNV, which was reversed in the presence of a cocktail of blocking antibodies against ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and E-selectin. Further, WNV infection of HBMVE significantly increased leukocyte adhesion to the HBMVE monolayer and transmigration across the infected BBB model. The blockade of these CAMs reduced the adhesion and transmigration of leukocytes across the infected BBB model. Further, comparison of infection with highly neuroinvasive NY99 and non-lethal (Eg101) strain of WNV demonstrated similar level of virus replication and fold-increase of CAMs in HBMVE cells suggesting that the non-neuropathogenic response of Eg101 is not because of its inability to infect HBMVE cells. Collectively, these results suggest that increased expression of specific CAMs is a pathological event associated with WNV infection and may contribute to leukocyte infiltration and BBB disruption in vivo. Our data further implicate that strategies to block CAMs to reduce BBB disruption may limit neuroinflammation and virus-CNS entry via 'Trojan horse' route, and improve WNV disease outcome.
West Nile virus (WNV) is a neurotropic flavivirus that has emerged globally as a significant cause of viral encephalitis in humans. The WNV-induced innate immune response, including production of antiviral cytokines, is critical for controlling virus infection. The adaptor protein ASC mediates a critical step in innate immune signaling by bridging the interaction between the pathogen recognition receptors and caspase 1 in inflammasome complexes, but its role in WNV immunopathogenesis is not defined. Here, we demonstrate that ASC is essential for interleukin-1? (IL-1?) production and development of effective host immunity against WNV. ASC-deficient mice exhibited increased susceptibility to WNV infection, and reduced survival was associated with enhanced virus replication in the peripheral tissues and central nervous system (CNS). Infection of cultured bone marrow-derived dendritic cells showed that ASC was essential for the activation of caspase 1, a key component of inflammasome assembly. ASC(-/-) mice exhibited attenuated levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the serum. Intriguingly, infected ASC(-/-) mice also displayed reduced levels of alpha interferon (IFN-?) and IgM in the serum, indicating the overall protective role of ASC in restricting WNV infection. However, brains from ASC(-/-) mice displayed unrestrained inflammation, including elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, such as IFN-?, CCL2, and CCL5, which correlated with more pronounced activation of the astrocytes, enhanced infiltration of peripheral immune cells in the CNS, and increased neuronal cell death. Collectively, our data provide new insights into the role of ASC as an essential modulator of inflammasome-dependent and -independent immune responses to effectively control WNV infection.
Selenoprotein K (Sel K) is a selenium-containing protein for which no function has been identified. We found that Sel K is an endoplasmic reticulum transmembrane protein expressed at relatively high levels in immune cells and is regulated by dietary selenium. Sel K(-/-) mice were generated and found to be similar to wild-type controls regarding growth and fertility. Immune system development was not affected by Sel K deletion, but specific immune cell defects were found in Sel K(-/-) mice. Receptor-mediated Ca(2+) flux was decreased in T cells, neutrophils, and macrophages from Sel K(-/-) mice compared with controls. Ca(2+)-dependent functions including T cell proliferation, T cell and neutrophil migration, and Fc? receptor-mediated oxidative burst in macrophages were decreased in cells from Sel K(-/-) mice compared with that in cells from controls. West Nile virus infections were performed, and Sel K(-/-) mice exhibited decreased viral clearance in the periphery and increased viral titers in brain. Furthermore, West Nile virus-infected Sel K(-/-) mice demonstrated significantly lower survival (2 of 23; 8.7%) compared with that of wild-type controls (10 of 26; 38.5%). These results establish Sel K as an endoplasmic reticulum-membrane protein important for promoting effective Ca(2+) flux during immune cell activation and provide insight into molecular mechanisms by which dietary selenium enhances immune responses.
Inflammatory immune responses triggered initially to clear West Nile virus (WNV) infection later become detrimental and contribute to the pathological processes such as blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption and neuronal death, thus complicating WNV-associated encephalitis (WNVE). It has been demonstrated previously that WNV infection in astrocytes results in induction of multiple matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which mediate BBB disruption. Cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes and their product, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), modulate neuroinflammation and regulate the production of multiple inflammatory molecules including MMPs. Therefore, this study determined and characterized the pathophysiological consequences of the expression of COX enzymes in human brain cortical astrocytes (HBCAs) following WNV infection. Whilst COX-1 mRNA expression did not change, WNV infection significantly induced RNA and protein expression of COX-2 in HBCAs. Similarly, PGE2 production was also enhanced significantly in infected HBCAs and was blocked in the presence of the COX-2-specific inhibitor NS-398, thus suggesting that COX-2, and not COX-1, was the source of the increased PGE2. Treatment of infected HBCAs with NS-398 attenuated the expression of MMP-1, -3 and -9 in a dose-dependent manner. Similarly, expression of interleukin-1?, -6 and -8, which were markedly elevated in infected HBCAs, exhibited a significant reduction in their levels in the presence of NS-398. These results provide direct evidence that WNV-induced COX-2/PGE2 is involved in modulating the expression of multiple neuroinflammatory mediators, thereby directly linking COX-2 with WNV disease pathogenesis. The ability of COX-2 inhibitors to modulate WNV-induced COX-2 and PGE2 signalling warrants further investigation in an animal model as a potential approach for clinical management of neuroinflammation associated with WNVE.
WNV-associated encephalitis (WNVE) is characterized by increased production of pro-inflammatory mediators, glial cells activation and eventual loss of neurons. WNV infection of neurons is rapidly progressive and destructive whereas infection of non-neuronal brain cells is limited. However, the role of neurons and pathological consequences of pro-inflammatory cytokines released as a result of WNV infection is unclear. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine the role of key cytokines secreted by WNV-infected neurons in mediating neuroinflammatory markers and neuronal death.
Though compromised blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a pathological hallmark of WNV-associated neurological sequelae, underlying mechanisms are unclear. We characterized the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) in WNV-infected human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMVE) and human brain cortical astrocytes (HBCA), components of BBB and their role in BBB disruption. Expression of multiple MMPs was significantly induced in WNV-infected HBCA cells. Naïve HBMVE cells incubated with the supernatant from WNV-infected HBCA cells demonstrated loss of tight junction proteins, which were rescued in the presence of MMP inhibitor, GM6001. Further, supernatant from WNV-infected HBCA cells compromised the in vitro BBB model integrity. Our data suggest astrocytes as one of the sources of MMP in the brain, which mediates BBB disruption allowing unrestricted entry of immune cells into the brain, thereby contributing to WNV neuropathogenesis. Because of the unavailability of WNV antivirals and vaccines, use of MMP inhibitors as an adjunct therapy to ameliorate WNV disease progression is warranted.
Neurological complications such as inflammation, failure of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and neuronal death contribute to the mortality and morbidity associated with WNV-induced meningitis. Compromised BBB indicates the ability of the virus to gain entry into the CNS via the BBB, however, the underlying mechanisms, and the specific cell types associated with WNV-CNS trafficking are not well understood. Brain microvascular endothelial cells, the main component of the BBB, represent a barrier to virus dissemination into the CNS and could play key role in WNV spread via hematogenous route. To investigate WNV entry into the CNS, we infected primary human brain microvascular endothelial (HBMVE) cells with the neurovirulent strain of WNV (NY99) and examined WNV replication kinetics together with the changes in the expressions of key tight junction proteins (TJP) and cell adhesion molecules (CAM). WNV infection of HBMVE cells was productive as analyzed by plaque assay and qRT-PCR, and did not induce cytopathic effect. Increased mRNA and protein expressions of TJP (claudin-1) and CAM (vascular cell adhesion molecule and E-selectin) were observed at days 2 and 3 after infection, respectively, which coincided with the peak in WNV replication. Further, using an in vitro BBB model comprised of HBMVE cells, we demonstrate that cell-free WNV can cross the BBB, without compromising the BBB integrity. These data suggest that infection of HBMVE cells can facilitate entry of cell-free virus into the CNS without disturbing the BBB, and increased CAM may assist in the trafficking of WNV-infected immune cells into the CNS, via Trojan horse mechanism, thereby contributing to WNV dissemination in the CNS and associated pathology.
Clinicoepidemiological data suggest that type 2 diabetes is associated with increased risk of West Nile virus encephalitis (WNVE). However, no experimental studies have elucidated the role of diabetes in WNV neuropathogenesis. Herein, we employed the db/db mouse model to understand WNV immunopathogenesis in diabetics. Nine-week old C57BL/6 WT and db/db mice were inoculated with WNV and mortality, virus burden in the periphery and brain, and antiviral defense responses were analyzed. db/db mice were highly susceptible to WNV disease, exhibited increased tissue tropism and mortality than the wild-type mice, and were unable to clear the infection. Increased and sustained WNV replication was observed in the serum, peripheral tissues and brain of db/db mice, and heightened virus replication in the periphery was correlated with enhanced neuroinvasion and replication of WNV in the brain. WNV infection in db/db mice was associated with enhanced inflammatory response and compromised antiviral immune response characterized by delayed induction of IFN-?, and significantly reduced concentrations of WNV-specific IgM and IgG antibodies. The compromised immune response in db/db mice correlated with increased viremia. These data suggest that delayed immune response coupled with failure to clear the virus leads to increased mortality in db/db mice. In conclusion, this study provides unique mechanistic insight into the immunopathogenesis of WNVE observed in diabetics and can be used to develop therapeutics for the management of WNVE among diabetic patients.
West Nile virus (WNV) encephalitis is characterized by neuroinflammation, neuronal loss and blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption. However, the mechanisms associated with the BBB disruption are unclear. Complex interactions between the tight junction proteins (TJP) and the adherens junction proteins (AJP) of the brain microvascular endothelial cells are responsible for maintaining the BBB integrity. Herein, we characterized the relationship between the BBB disruption and expression kinetics of key TJP, AJP and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in the mice brain. A dramatic increase in the BBB permeability and extravasation of IgG was observed at later time points of the central nervous system (CNS) infection and did not precede virus-CNS entry. WNV-infected mice exhibited significant reduction in the protein levels of the TJP ZO-1, claudin-1, occludin and JAM-A, and AJP ?-catenin and vascular endothelial cadherin, which correlated with increased levels of MMP-1, -3 and -9 and infiltrated leukocytes in the brain. Further, intracranial inoculation of WNV also demonstrated increased extravasation of IgG in the brain, suggesting the role of virus replication in the CNS in BBB disruption. These data suggest that altered expression of junction proteins is a pathological event associated with WNV infection and may explain the molecular basis of BBB disruption. We propose that WNV initially enters CNS without altering the BBB integrity and later virus replication in the brain initiates BBB disruption, allowing enhanced infiltration of immune cells and contribute to virus neuroinvasion via the Trojan-horse route. These data further implicate roles of multiple MMPs in the BBB disruption and strategies to interrupt this process may influence the WNV disease outcome.
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