Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 27787521
Cell Death Dis 2016 Oct;7(10):e2440
Epidemiological evidence from the current outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) and recent studies in animal models indicate a strong causal link between ZIKV and microcephaly. ZIKV infection induces cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in proliferating neural progenitors. However, the mechanisms leading to these phenotypes are still largely obscure. In this report, we explored the possible similarities between transcriptional responses induced by ZIKV in human neural progenitors and those elicited by three different genetic mutations leading to severe forms of microcephaly in mice. We found that the strongest similarity between all these conditions is the activation of common P53 downstream genes. In agreement with these observations, we report that ZIKV infection increases total P53 levels and nuclear accumulation, as well as P53 Ser15 phosphorylation, correlated with genotoxic stress and apoptosis induction. Interestingly, increased P53 activation and apoptosis are induced not only in cells expressing high levels of viral antigens but also in cells showing low or undetectable levels of the same proteins. These results indicate that P53 activation is an early and specific event in ZIKV-infected cells, which could result from cell-autonomous and/or non-cell-autonomous mechanisms. Moreover, we highlight a small group of P53 effector proteins that could act as critical mediators, not only in ZIKV-induced microcephaly but also in many genetic microcephaly syndromes.