Background: Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus (VEEV) may enter the central nervous system (CNS) within olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) that originate in the nasal cavity after intranasal exposure. While it is known that VEEV has evolved several mechanisms to inhibit type I interferon (IFN) signaling within infected cells, whether this inhibits virologic control during neuroinvasion along OSN has not been studied. Methods: We utilized an established murine model of intranasal infection with VEEV and a repository of scRNAseq data from IFN-treated OSN to assess the cellular targets and IFN signaling responses after VEEV exposure. Results: We found that immature OSN, which express higher levels of the VEEV receptor LDLRAD3 than mature OSN, are the first cells infected by VEEV. Despite rapid VEEV neuroinvasion after intranasal exposure, olfactory neuroepithelium (ONE) and olfactory bulb (OB) IFN responses, as assessed by evaluation of expression of interferon signaling genes (ISG), are delayed for up to 48 h during VEEV neuroinvasion, representing a potential therapeutic window. Indeed, a single intranasal dose of recombinant IFNα triggers early ISG expression in both the nasal cavity and OB. When administered at the time of or early after infection, IFNα treatment delayed onset of sequelae associated with encephalitis and extended survival by several days. VEEV replication after IFN treatment was also transiently suppressed in the ONE, which inhibited subsequent invasion into the CNS. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate a critical and promising first evaluation of intranasal IFNα for the treatment of human encephalitic alphavirus exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


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