Henipavirus pathogenesis in human respiratory epithelial cells

Olivier Escaffre, Viktoriya Borisevich, J. Russ Carmical, Deborah Prusak, Joseph Prescott, Heinz Feldmann, Barry Rockx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV) are deadly zoonotic viruses for which no vaccines or therapeutics are licensed for human use. Henipavirus infection causes severe respiratory illness and encephalitis. Although the exact route of transmission in human is unknown, epidemiological studies and in vivo studies suggest that the respiratory tract is important for virus replication. However, the target cells in the respiratory tract are unknown, as are the mechanisms by which henipaviruses can cause disease. In this study, we characterized henipavirus pathogenesis using primary cells derived from the human respiratory tract. The growth kinetics of NiV-Malaysia, NiV-Bangladesh, and HeV were determined in bronchial/ tracheal epithelial cells (NHBE) and small airway epithelial cells (SAEC). In addition, host responses to infection were assessed by gene expression analysis and immunoassays. Viruses replicated efficiently in both cell types and induced large syncytia. The host response to henipavirus infection in NHBE and SAEC highlighted a difference in the inflammatory response between HeV and NiV strains as well as intrinsic differences in the ability to mount an inflammatory response between NHBE and SAEC. These responses were highest during HeV infection in SAEC, as characterized by the levels of key cytokines (interleukin 6 [IL-6], IL-8, IL-1α, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 [MCP-1], and colony-stimulating factors) responsible for immune cell recruitment. Finally, we identified virus strain-dependent variability in type I interferon antagonism in NHBE and SAEC: NiV-Malaysia counteracted this pathway more efficiently than NiV-Bangladesh and HeV. These results provide crucial new information in the understanding of henipavirus pathogenesis in the human respiratory tract at an early stage of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3284-3294
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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