Pivotal Role of Receptor-Interacting Protein Kinase 1 and Mixed Lineage Kinase Domain-Like in Neuronal Cell Death Induced by the Human Neuroinvasive Coronavirus OC43.J Virol. 2017 Jan 01; 91(1)JV
Human coronaviruses (HCoV) are respiratory pathogens with neuroinvasive, neurotropic, and neurovirulent properties, highlighting the importance of studying the potential implication of these viruses in neurological diseases. The OC43 strain (HCoV-OC43) was reported to induce neuronal cell death, which may participate in neuropathogenesis. Here, we show that HCoV-OC43 harboring two point mutations in the spike glycoprotein (rOC/Us183-241) was more neurovirulent than the wild-type HCoV-OC43 (rOC/ATCC) in mice and induced more cell death in murine and human neuronal cells. To evaluate the role of regulated cell death (RCD) in HCoV-OC43-mediated neural pathogenesis, we determined if knockdown of Bax, a key regulator of apoptosis, or RIP1, a key regulator of necroptosis, altered the percentage of neuronal cell death following HCoV-OC43 infection. We found that Bax-dependent apoptosis did not play a significant role in RCD following infection, as inhibition of Bax expression mediated by RNA interference did not confer cellular protection against the cell death process. On the other hand, we demonstrated that RIP1 and MLKL were involved in neuronal cell death, as RIP1 knockdown and chemical inhibition of MLKL significantly increased cell survival after infection. Taken together, these results indicate that RIP1 and MLKL contribute to necroptotic cell death after HCoV-OC43 infection to limit viral replication. However, this RCD could lead to neuronal loss in the mouse CNS and accentuate the neuroinflammation process, reflecting the severity of neuropathogenesis.
Because they are naturally neuroinvasive and neurotropic, human coronaviruses are suspected to participate in the development of neurological diseases. Given that the strain OC43 is neurovirulent in mice and induces neuronal cell death, we explored the neuronal response to infection by characterizing the activation of RCD. Our results revealed that classical apoptosis associated with the Bax protein does not play a significant role in HCoV-OC43-induced neuronal cell death and that RIP1 and MLKL, two cellular proteins usually associated with necroptosis (an RCD back-up system when apoptosis is not adequately induced), both play a pivotal role in the process. As necroptosis disrupts cellular membranes and allows the release of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMP) and possibly induces the production of proinflammatory cytokines, it may represent a proinflammatory cell death mechanism that contributes to excessive neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration and eventually to neurological disorders after a coronavirus infection.