Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 37591996
Link to DOI – 10.1038/s41564-023-01449-0
Nat Microbiol 2023 Sep; 8(9): 1653-1667
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has recently emerged to cause millions of human infections worldwide. Infection can induce the formation of long intercellular extensions that project from infected cells and form stable non-continuous membrane bridges with neighbouring cells. The mechanistic role of these intercellular extensions in CHIKV infection was unclear. Here we developed a co-culture system and flow cytometry methods to quantitatively evaluate transmission of CHIKV from infected to uninfected cells in the presence of neutralizing antibody. Endocytosis and endosomal acidification were critical for virus cell-to-cell transmission, while the CHIKV receptor MXRA8 was not. By using distinct antibodies to block formation of extensions and by evaluation of transmission in HeLa cells that did not form extensions, we showed that intercellular extensions mediate CHIKV cell-to-cell transmission. In vivo, pre-treatment of mice with a neutralizing antibody blocked infection by direct virus inoculation, while adoptive transfer of infected cells produced antibody-resistant host infection. Together our data suggest a model in which the contact sites of intercellular extensions on target cells shield CHIKV from neutralizing antibodies and promote efficient intercellular virus transmission both in vitro and in vivo.