Pseudovirus rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP Infects Neurons in Retina and CNS, Causing Apoptosis and Neurodegeneration in Neonatal Mice.

Cell reports (2019-02-14)
Ian L McWilliams, Jennifer L Kielczewski, Derek D C Ireland, Jacob S Sykes, Aaron P Lewkowicz, Krishnamurthy Konduru, Biying C Xu, Chi-Chao Chan, Rachel R Caspi, Mohanraj Manangeeswaran, Daniela Verthelyi

Zaire Ebola virus (ZEBOV) survivors experience visual and CNS sequelae that suggests the ZEBOV glycoprotein can mediate neurotropism. Replication-competent rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP vaccine candidate is generally well tolerated; however, its potential neurotropism requires careful study. Here, we show that a single inoculation of rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP virus in neonatal C57BL/6 mice results in transient viremia, neurological symptoms, high viral titers in eyes and brains, and death. rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP infects the inner layers of the retina, causing severe retinitis. In the cerebellum, rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP infects neurons in the granular and Purkinje layers, resulting in progressive foci of apoptosis and neurodegeneration. The susceptibility to infection is not due to impaired type I IFN responses, although MDA5-/-, IFNβ-/-, and IFNAR1-/- mice have accelerated mortality. However, boosting interferon levels by co-administering poly(I:C) reduces viral titers in CNS and improves survival. Although these data should not be directly extrapolated to humans, they challenge the hypothesis that VSV-based vaccines are non-neurotropic.

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Monoclonal Anti-Neurofilament 160 antibody produced in mouse, clone NN18, ascites fluid