Obdulio García-Nicolás, Marta Lewandowska, Meret E. Ricklin and Artur Summerfield
Several mosquito-borne Flaviviruses such as Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), West Nile virus (WNV), Dengue Virus (DENV), and Zika virus (ZIKV) can cause severe clinical disease. Being zoonotic, Flaviviruses infect a wide variety of terrestrial vertebrates, which dependent of the virus-host interactions, can enhance ongoing epidemics and maintain the virus in the environment for prolonged periods. Targeted species can vary from amphibians, birds to various mammals, dependent on the virus. For many mosquito-borne flaviviruses the spectrum of targeted species is incompletely understood, in particular with respect to their contribution to the maintenance of virus in certain geographical regions. Furthermore, little is known about virus and host factors contributing to species tropism. The present study utilized human and porcine monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MoDC) as a cell culture model to better understand Flavivirus species tropism and innate immune responses. MoDC were selected based on their presence in the skin and their role as an early target cell for several Flaviviruses and their role as immune sentinels. While differences in viral infectivity and replication were minor when comparing porcine with human MoDC for some of the tested Flaviviruses, a particularly strong replication in human MoDC was found with USUV, while JEV appeared to have a stronger tropism for porcine MoDC. With respect to innate immune responses we found high induction of TNF and IFN-β in both human and porcine MoDC after infection with JEV, WNV, and USUV, but not with DENV, ZIKV, and Wesselsbron virus. Spondweni virus induced these cytokine responses only in porcine MoDC. Overall, innate immune responses correlated with early infectivity and cytokine production. In conclusion, we demonstrate Flavivirus-dependent differences in the interaction with MoDC. These may play a role in pathogenesis but appear to only partially reflect the expected species tropism.