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Scientific Reports, 19 November 2018

Noreen Mumtaz, Marijke Koedam, Petra B. van den Doel, Johannes P. T. M. van Leeuwen, Marion P. G. Koopmans, Bram C. J. van der Eerden & Barry Rockx
Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is typically characterized by a mild self-limiting disease presenting with fever, rash, myalgia and arthralgia and severe fetal complications during pregnancy such as microcephaly, subcortical calcifications and arthrogyropsis. Virus-induced arthralgia due to perturbed osteoblast function has been described for other arboviruses. In case of ZIKV infection, the role of osteoblasts in ZIKV pathogenesis and bone related pathology remains unknown. Here, we study the effect of ZIKV infection on osteoblast differentiation, maturation and function by quantifying activity and gene expression of key biomarkers, using human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs, osteoblast precursors). MSCs were induced to differentiate into osteoblasts and we found that osteoblasts were highly susceptible to ZIKV infection. While infection did not cause a cytopathic effect, a significant reduction of key osteogenic markers such as ALP, RUNX2, calcium contents and increased expression of IL6 in ZIKV-infected MSCs implicated a delay in osteoblast development and maturation, as compared to uninfected controls. In conclusion, we have developed and characterized a new in vitro model to study the role of bone development in ZIKV pathogenesis, which will help to identify possible new targets for developing therapeutic and preventive measures.