Proinflammatory response during Ebola virus infection of primate models: Possible involvement of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily

Lisa E. Hensley, Howard A. Young, Peter B. Jahrling, Thomas W. Geisbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Scopus citations


Ebola virus (EBOV) infections are characterized by dysregulation of normal host immune responses. Insight into the mechanism came from recent studies in nonhuman primates, which showed that EBOV infects cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS), resulting in apoptosis of bystander lymphocytes. In this study, we evaluated serum levels of cytokines/chemokines in EBOV-infected nonhuman primates, as possible correlates of this bystander apoptosis. Increased levels of interferon (IFN)-α, IFN-β, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-18, MIP-1α, and MIP-1β were observed in all EBOV-infected monkeys, indicating the occurrence of a strong proinflammatory response. To investigate the mechanism(s) involved in lymphoid apoptosis, soluble Fas (sFas) and nitrate accumulation were measured. sFas was detected in 4/9 animals, while, elevations of nitrate accumulation occurred in 3/3 animals. To further evaluate the potential role of these factors in the observed bystander apoptosis and intact animals, in vitro cultures were prepared of adherent human monocytes/macrophages (PHM), and monocytes differentiated into immature dendritic cells (DC). These cultures were infected with EBOV and analyzed for cytokine/chemokine induction and expression of apoptosis-related genes. In addition, the in vitro EBOV infection of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) resulted in strong cytokine/chemokine induction, a marked increase in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity, and an increase in the number of apoptotic lymphocytes examined by electron microscopy. Increased levels of sFAS were detected in PHM cultures, although, < 10% of the cells were positive by immunohistochemistry. In contrast, > 90% of EBOV-infected PHM were positive for tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) by immunohistochemistry, RNA analysis, and flow cytometry. Inactivated EBOV also effected increased TRAIL expression in PHM, suggesting that the TNF receptor superfamily may be involved in apoptosis of the host lymphoid cells, and that induction may occur independent of viral replication. In further studies with infected PHM, expression of MHC II was remarkably suppressed after 6 days, an additional correlate of immunological dysregulation. In conclusion, our findings suggest that infection of mononuclear phagocytes is critical, triggering a cascade of events involving cytokines/chemokines and oxygen free radicals. It is the consequence of these events rather than direct viral infection that results in much of the observed pathology. Identification of cytokine/chemokine, nitric oxide, and reactive oxygen species involvement in the observed filoviral pathogenesis may lend insight into the rational design of therapeutic countermeasures of filoviral pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalImmunology Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Dendritic cells
  • Ebola virus
  • Macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Proinflammatory response during Ebola virus infection of primate models: Possible involvement of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this