West Nile virus (WNV) replicates in the skin; however, cell targets in the skin have not been identified. In the current studies, WNV infected the epidermis and adnexal glands of mouse skin, and the epidermal cells were identified as keratinocytes by double labeling for WNV antigen and keratin 10. Inoculation of mice with WNV replicon particles resulted in high levels of replication in the skin, suggesting that keratinocytes are an initial target of WNV. In addition, primary keratinocytes produced infectious virus in vitro. In conclusion, keratinocytes are cell targets of WNV in vivo and may play an important role in pathogenesis.
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