AXL receptor is required for Zika virus strain MR-766 infection in human glioblastoma cell lines


Advocate Aurora Research Institute, Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute


Recent reports have shown that Zika virus (ZIKV) has oncolytic potential against human glioblastoma (GBM); however, the mechanisms underlying its tropism and cell entry are not completely understood. The receptor tyrosine kinase AXL has been identified as an entry receptor for ZIKV in a cell-type-specific manner. Interestingly, AXL is frequently overexpressed in GBM patients. Using commercially available GBM cell lines, we first show that cells expressing AXL are permissive for ZIKV infection, while cells that do not express AXL are not. Furthermore, inhibition of AXL kinase using R428 and antibody blockade of AXL receptor strongly attenuated virus entry in GBM cell lines. Additionally, CRISPR knockout of the AXL gene in GBM cell lines completely abolished ZIKV infection, significantly inhibited viral replication, and significantly reduced apoptosis compared with parental lines. Lastly, introduction of AXL receptor into non-expressing cell lines renders the cells susceptible to ZIKV infection. Together, these findings demonstrate that ZIKV entry into GBM cells is mediated by the AXL receptor and that following cell entry, productive infection is cytotoxic. Thus, ZIKV is a potential oncolytic virus for GBM.

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