PLOS ONE, 19 December 2018

Tine Tricot, Nicky Helsen, Suzanne J. F. Kaptein, Johan Neyts, Catherine M. Verfaillie
Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy has been extensively linked to microcephaly in newborns. High levels of ZIKV RNA were, however, also detected in mice and non-human primates in organs other than the brain, such as the liver. As ZIKV is a flavivirus closely related to the dengue and yellow fever virus, which are known to cause hepatitis, we here examined whether human hepatocytes are susceptible to ZIKV infection. We demonstrated that both human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) and the Huh7 hepatoma cell line support the complete ZIKV replication cycle. Of three antiviral molecules that inhibit ZIKV infection in Vero cells, only 7-deaza-2’-C-methyladenosine (7DMA) inhibited ZIKV replication in hPSC-HLCs, while all drugs inhibited ZIKV infection in Huh7 cells. ZIKV-infected hPSC-HLCs but not Huh7 cells mounted an innate immune and NFκβ response, which may explain the more extensive cytopathic effect observed in Huh7 cells. In conclusion, ZIKV productively infects human hepatocytes in vitro. However, significant differences in the innate immune response against ZIKV and antiviral drug sensitivity were observed when comparing hPSC-HLCs and hepatoma cells, highlighting the need to assess ZIKV infection as well as antiviral activity not only in hepatoma cells, but also in more physiologically relevant systems.


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