Interferon Alpha, but Not Interferon Beta, Acts Early To Control Chronic Chikungunya Virus Pathogenesis

Marissa C. Locke, Lindsey E. Fox, Bria F. Dunlap, Alissa R. Young, Kristen Monte, Deborah J. Lenschow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an arthritogenic alphavirus that causes both debilitating acute and chronic disease. Previous work has shown that type I interferons (IFNs) play a critical role in limiting CHIKV pathogenesis and that interferon alpha (IFN-α) and interferon beta (IFN-β) control acute CHIKV infection by distinct mechanisms. However, the role of type I IFNs, especially specific subtypes, during chronic CHIKV disease is unclear. To address this gap in knowledge, we evaluated chronic CHIKV pathogenesis in mice lacking IFN-α or IFN-β. We found that IFN-α was the dominant subtype that controls chronic disease. Despite detecting a varying type I IFN response throughout the course of disease, IFN-α acts within the first few days of infection to control the levels of persistent CHIKV RNA. In addition, using a novel CHIKV-39-Cre tdTomato reporter system that fate maps CHIKVinfected cells, we showed that IFN-α limits the number of cells that survive CHIKV at sites of dissemination, particularly dermal fibroblasts and immune cells. Though myofibers play a significant role in CHIKV disease, they were not impacted by the loss of IFN-α. Our studies highlight that IFN-α and IFN-β play divergent roles during chronic CHIKV disease through events that occur early in infection and that not all cell types are equally dependent on type I IFNs for restricting viral persistence.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01143-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Chikungunya virus
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Innate immunity
  • Interferons


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