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Zika virus infection reprograms global transcription of host cells to allow sustained infection


Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging virus causally linked to neurological disorders, including congenital microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. There are currently no targeted therapies for ZIKV infection. To identify novel antiviral targets and to elucidate the mechanisms by which ZIKV exploits the host cell machinery to support sustained replication, we analyzed the transcriptomic landscape of human microglia, fibroblast, embryonic kidney and monocyte-derived macrophage cell lines before and after ZIKV infection. The four cell types differed in their susceptibility to ZIKV infection, consistent with differences in their expression of viral response genes before infection. Clustering and network analyses of genes differentially expressed after ZIKV infection revealed changes related to the adaptive immune system, angiogenesis and host metabolic processes that are conducive to sustained viral production. Genes related to the adaptive immune response were downregulated in microglia cells, suggesting that ZIKV effectively evades the immune response after reaching the central nervous system. Like other viruses, ZIKV diverts host cell resources and reprograms the metabolic machinery to support RNA metabolism, ATP production and glycolysis. Consistent with these transcriptomic analyses, nucleoside metabolic inhibitors abrogated ZIKV replication in microglia cells.

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