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Nitric Oxide Attenuates Human Cytomegalovirus Infection yet Disrupts Neural Cell Differentiation and Tissue Organization. J Virol 2022 Jul 27;96(14):e0012622



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85135227929 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   7 Citations


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a prevalent betaherpesvirus that is asymptomatic in healthy individuals but can cause serious disease in immunocompromised patients. HCMV is also the leading cause of virus-mediated birth defects. Many of these defects manifest within the central nervous system and include microcephaly, sensorineural hearing loss, and cognitive developmental delays. Nitric oxide is a critical effector molecule produced as a component of the innate immune response during infection. Congenitally infected fetal brains show regions of brain damage, including necrotic foci with infiltrating macrophages and microglia, cell types that produce nitric oxide during infection. Using a 3-dimensional cortical organoid model, we demonstrate that nitric oxide inhibits HCMV spread and simultaneously disrupts neural rosette structures, resulting in tissue disorganization. Nitric oxide also attenuates HCMV replication in 2-dimensional cultures of neural progenitor cells (NPCs), a prominent cell type in cortical organoids that differentiate into neurons and glial cells. The multipotency factor SOX2 was decreased during nitric oxide exposure, suggesting that early neural differentiation is affected. Nitric oxide also reduced maximal mitochondrial respiration in both uninfected and infected NPCs. We determined that this reduction likely influences neural differentiation, as neurons (Tuj1+ GFAP- Nestin-) and glial populations (Tuj1- GFAP+ Nestin-) were reduced following differentiation. Our studies indicate a prominent, immunopathogenic role of nitric oxide in promoting developmental defects within the brain despite its antiviral activity during congenital HCMV infection. IMPORTANCE Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the leading cause of virus-mediated congenital birth defects. Congenitally infected infants can have a variety of symptoms manifesting within the central nervous system. The use of 3-dimensional (3-D) cortical organoids to model infection of the fetal brain has advanced the current understanding of development and allowed broader investigation of the mechanisms behind disease. However, the impact of the innate immune molecule nitric oxide during HCMV infection has not been explored in neural cells or cortical 3-D models. Here, we investigated the effect of nitric oxide on cortical development during HCMV infection. We demonstrate that nitric oxide plays an antiviral role during infection yet results in disorganized cortical tissue. Nitric oxide contributes to differentiation defects of neuron and glial cells from neural progenitor cells despite inhibiting viral replication. Our results indicate that immunopathogenic consequences of nitric oxide during congenital infection promote developmental defects that undermine its antiviral activity.

Author List

Mokry RL, O'Brien BS, Adelman JW, Rosas S, Schumacher ML, Ebert AD, Terhune SS


Allison D. Ebert PhD Associate Professor in the Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Scott Terhune PhD Professor in the Microbiology and Immunology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Antiviral Agents
Cell Differentiation
Cerebral Cortex
Cytomegalovirus Infections
Neural Stem Cells
Nitric Oxide