Bioinformatic analysis reveals the expression of unique transcriptomic signatures in Zika virus infected human neural stem cells

Alyssa J. Rolfe, Dale B. Bosco, Jingying Wang, Richard S. Nowakowski, Jianqing Fan, Yi Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background: The single-stranded RNA Flavivirus, Zika virus (ZIKV), has recently re-emerged and spread rapidly across the western hemisphere's equatorial countries, primarily through Aedes mosquito transmission. While symptoms in adult infections appear to be self-limiting and mild, severe birth defects, such as microcephaly, have been linked to infection during early pregnancy. Recently, Tang et al. (Cell Stem Cell 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2016.02.016 ) demonstrated that ZIKV efficiently infects induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) derived human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs), resulting in cell cycle abnormalities and apoptosis. Consequently, hNPCs are a suggested ZIKV target. Methods: We analyzed the transcriptomic sequencing (RNA-seq) data (GEO: GSE78711) of ZIKV (Strain: MR766) infected hNPCs. For comparison to the ZIKV-infected hNPCs, the expression data from hNPCs infected with human cytomegalovirus (CMV) (Strain: AD169) was used (GEO: GSE35295). Utilizing a combination of Gene Ontology, database of human diseases, and pathway analysis, we generated a putative systemic model of infection supported by known molecular pathways of other highly related viruses. Results: We analyzed RNA-sequencing data for transcript expression alterations in ZIKV-infected hNPCs, and then compared them to expression patterns of iPSC-derived hNPCs infected with CMV, a virus that can also induce severe congenital neurological defects in developing fetuses. We demonstrate for the first time that many of cellular pathways correlate with clinical pathologies following ZIKV infection such as microcephaly, congenital nervous system disorders and epilepsy. Furthermore, ZIKV activates several inflammatory signals within infected hNPCs that are implicated in innate and acquired immune responses, while CMV-infected hNPCs showed limited representation of these pathways. Moreover, several genes related to pathogen responses are significantly upregulated upon ZIKV infection, but not perturbed in CMV-infected hNPCs. Conclusion: The presented study is the first to report enrichment of numerous pro-inflammatory pathways in ZIKV-infected hNPCs, indicating that hNPCs are capable of signaling through canonical pro-inflammatory pathways following viral infection. By defining gene expression profiles, new factors in the pathogenesis of ZIKV were identified which could help develop new therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
JournalCell and Bioscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bioinformatic analysis reveals the expression of unique transcriptomic signatures in Zika virus infected human neural stem cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this