Published online Feb 12, 2018. doi: 10.5501/wjv.v7.i1.10
Peer-review started: October 27, 2017
First decision: November 23, 2017
Revised: December 6, 2017
Accepted: December 13, 2017
Article in press: December 13, 2017
Published online: February 12, 2018
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging virus transmitted mainly by mosquitos, that has spread during the last decades from Africa, to Asia, over Micronesia to the Americans causing an epidemic in Brazil in the years 2016/2017. In order to propagate the virus in cell culture we investigated various cell lines for their susceptibility to ZIKV infection.
To date ZIKV is mainly propagated in Vero cells derived from kidney epithelial cells from African green monkey. This study aimed to investigate the potential of various cell lines to support the viral life cycle in order to provide researchers with suitable cell culture systems for different issues in the field of ZIKV research.
The objectives of this research were to investigate ten human and non-human cell lines from various tissues (e.g., hepatocytes, keratinocytes and neuronal cells) with regard to their intracellular amount of viral genomes and infectious viral particles upon ZIKV-infection. Moreover, the amount of secreted viral genomes and infectious viral particles was analyzed in the cell culture supernatants. Furthermore, the amount of infected cells was analyzed by immunofluorescence using an Envelope-specific antibody and the amount of NS1 was analyzed by western blot. In order to draw a conclusion whether parts of the innate immune response are responsible for the found differences in viral support, STAT1 distribution and expression was analyzed.
Quantification of viral genomes was performed by qPCR. For the detection of genomes from whole cell lysate a standard PCR protocol with SYBR green was used with cDNA as template transcribed from total RNA that was isolated with a Tri-reagent. Viral genomes released into the cell culture supernatant were isolated with a viral RNA isolation kit and subjected to a Taqman-PCR based on a ZIKV-Lightmix Kit. The detection of infectious virus was performed by virus titration assay using serial dilutions from the supernatant or from cleared cellular lysates. The amount of infected cells was analyzed with immunofluorescence microscopy by using an Env-specific antibody and with western blot using NS1-specific antibody. The effect on the innate immunity was monitored by luciferase-reporter assay and STAT1 distribution was analyzed by immunofluorescence microscopy.
All investigated cell lines except CHO cells supported infection, replication and release of ZIKV. While in infected A549 and Vero cells a pronounced cytopathic effect was observed COS7, 293T and Huh7.5 cells were most resistant. Although the analyzed cell lines released comparable amounts of viral genomes to the supernatant significant differences were found for the number of infectious viral particles. The neuronal cell lines N29.1 and SH-SY5Y released 100 times less infectious viral particles than Vero-, A549- or 293T-cells. However there is no strict correlation between the amount of produced viral particles and the induction of an interferon response in the analyzed cell lines.
The results presented so far provide a toolbox of cell culture systems for ZIKV research in general. However, the analyzed cells differ strongly with respect to the amount of released viral particles, whereas the amount of genomes amongst the cells in the supernatant and inside of infected cells are more or less equal. This is an important finding, since a lot of research and diagnostic is based on qPCR analysis only.
Further research should aim on the differences of released viral genomes vs released infectious virus. Are there differences in the release pathway? Which pathways are used for viral egress? Why are certain cell lines not succeptible?