Differential replication of pathogenic and nonpathogenic strains of West Nile virus within astrocytes

Katherine L. Hussmann, Melanie A. Samuel, Kwang S. Kim, Michael S. Diamond, Brenda L. Fredericksen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The severity of West Nile virus (WNV) infection in immunocompetent animals is highly strain dependent, ranging from avirulent to highly neuropathogenic. Here, we investigatethe nature of this strain-specific restriction by analyzing the replication of avirulent (WNV-MAD78) and highly virulent (WNV-NY) strains in neurons, astrocytes, and microvascular endothelial cells,which comprise the neurovascular unit within the central nervous system (CNS). We demonstrate that WNV-MAD78 replicated in and traversed brain microvascular endothelial cells as efficiently as WNV-NY. Likewise, similar levels of replication were detected in neurons. Thus, WNV-MAD78's nonneuropathogenic phenotype is not due to an intrinsic inability to replicate in key target cells within the CNS. In contrast, replication of WNV-MAD78 was delayed and reduced compared to that of WNV-NY in astrocytes. The reduced susceptibility of astrocytes to WNV-MAD78 was due to a delay in viral genome replication and an interferon-independent reduction in cell-to-cell spread. Together, our data suggest that astrocytes regulate WNV spread within the CNS and therefore are an attractive target for ameliorating WNV-induced neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2814-2822
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2013


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