Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 37733807
Link to DOI – 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011446
PLoS Pathog 2023 Sep; 19(9): e1011446
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a Flavivirus responsible for recent epidemics in Pacific Islands and in the Americas. In humans, the consequences of ZIKV infection range from asymptomatic infection to severe neurological disease such as Guillain-Barré syndrome or fetal neurodevelopmental defects, suggesting, among other factors, the influence of host genetic variants. We previously reported similar diverse outcomes of ZIKV infection in mice of the Collaborative Cross (CC), a collection of inbred strains with large genetic diversity. CC071/TauUnc (CC071) was the most susceptible CC strain with severe symptoms and lethality. Notably, CC071 has been recently reported to be also susceptible to other flaviviruses including dengue virus, Powassan virus, West Nile virus, and to Rift Valley fever virus. To identify the genetic origin of this broad susceptibility, we investigated ZIKV replication in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from CC071 and two resistant strains. CC071 showed uncontrolled ZIKV replication associated with delayed induction of type-I interferons (IFN-I). Genetic analysis identified a mutation in the Irf3 gene specific to the CC071 strain which prevents the protein phosphorylation required to activate interferon beta transcription. We demonstrated that this mutation induces the same defective IFN-I response and uncontrolled viral replication in MEFs as an Irf3 knock-out allele. By contrast, we also showed that Irf3 deficiency did not induce the high plasma viral load and clinical severity observed in CC071 mice and that susceptibility alleles at other genes, not associated with the IFN-I response, are required. Our results provide new insight into the in vitro and in vivo roles of Irf3, and into the genetic complexity of host responses to flaviviruses.