CyTOF profiling of Zika and dengue virus-infected human peripheral blood mononuclear cells identifies phenotypic signatures of monotype subsets and upregulation of the interferon-inducible protein CD169

Zika and dengue virus (ZIKV and DENV) are two flaviviruses responsible for important vector-borne emerging infectious diseases. While there have been multiple DENV epidemics in the last decades, there have been fewer documented epidemics caused by ZIKV until recent years. Thus, our current knowledge about the biology of ZIKV, the disease, and the immune responses in humans is limited. Here, we used mass cytometry (CyTOF) to perform a detailed characterization of the innate immune responses elicited by ZIKV and DENV in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy donors infected ex vivo. We found that ZIKV and DENV exposure of human PBMCs induces global phenotypic changes in myeloid cells, characterized mainly by upregulation of costimulatory molecules (CD86 and CD40), CD38, and the type I interferon-inducible protein CD169, a marker for phagocytic function and cross-priming potential in myeloid cells. We also found that ZIKV induces expansion of nonclassical monocytes in cell culture. The analysis of the phenotype of the three monocyte subtypes (classical, intermediate, and nonclassical) at the single-cell level identified differences in their expression of CD86, CD38, CXCL8, and CXCL10 during ZIKV and DENV infection. Overall, using CyTOF, we found that ex vivo infections of PBMCs with ZIKV and DENV reproduced many aspects of the profile found in blood from patients in previously described cohort studies, which highlights the suitability of this system for the study of the human host responses to these viruses.

IMPORTANCE Zika and dengue viruses are emergent arboviruses of great public health impact. Both viruses are responsible for important diseases, yet there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment available. Immune cells play critical roles in the virus cycle as well as in the innate and adaptive immune response elicited in the host; therefore, it is critical to understand the changes induced by virus infection in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). In this study, we used a model of ex vivo infection of PBMCs and CyTOF technology to profile the early innate immune changes induced by Zika virus and dengue virus in blood.

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