Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2016

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Julia Hilliard

Second Advisor

Margo Brinton

Third Advisor

Andrew Clancy

Fourth Advisor

Richard Dix

Fifth Advisor

Homayon Ghiasi

Abstract

B virus is an alphaherpesvirus, endemic to macaque monkeys, capable of deadly human zoonosis with an 80% mortality rate in untreated cases. The macaque monkey is widely used in biomedical research and the threat of B virus poses an occupational hazard to researchers, veterinarians, and animal handlers. B virus establishes a life-long latent infection in sensory neurons of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) in the natural host. In human infections, B virus readily transits to the central nervous system (CNS) and destroys brain tissues. Identifying immune correlates of B virus infection in the PNS of the natural host is critical in understanding viral lethality in the human host. The lack of an accurate animal model and restrictions on handling potentially infected nervous tissue previously limited studies of B virus infection in macaque ganglia. To address this barrier, a long-lived mixed neuron/glia cell culture model was established from macaque DRG explants using a novel methodology that relied on cellular migration from whole tissues. Utilizing this model, the hypothesis tested was that acute B virus infection of macaque ganglia triggers cellular defense networks to promote leukocyte recruitment and impact leukocyte activation. Chemokines were upregulated in B virus-infected cultures and infected cell media induced leukocyte chemotaxis. Leukocytes were less effectively activated by media from infected cells when compared to media from mock-infected cells. To identify factors responsible for this, focused microarrays were performed and cytokine profiles were quantified from B virus and mock-infected culture supernatants. IL-6 protein levels were significantly reduced in B virus infected cultures. This observation led to the hypothesis that IL-6 downregulation impairs leukocyte activation and, indeed, when IL-6 was added to B virus-infected culture supernatants to control levels, these cultures were far more effective at eliciting leukocyte activation when compared with mock-infected cultures. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that acute B virus infection of macaque ganglia triggers cellular defense networks to promote leukocyte recruitment and impact leukocyte activation and identifies a potential viral mechanism to impair leukocyte functionality. Additionally, this work presents a novel methodology for establishing long-lived mixed neuron/glia cultures from postnatal/adult macaque DRGs.

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