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Cell Res. 2016 Jun;26(6):645-54. doi: 10.1038/cr.2016.58. Epub 2016 May 13.

Vertical transmission of Zika virus targeting the radial glial cells affects cortex development of offspring mice.

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Institute of Neuroscience, State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.
Chinese Academy of Sciences University, Beijing, China.
Department of Virology, State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity, Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, Beijing 100071, China.
ShanghaiTech University, Shanghai, China.


The recent Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in Latin America coincided with a marked increase in microcephaly in newborns. However, the causal link between maternal ZIKV infection and malformation of the fetal brain has not been firmly established. Here we show a vertical transmission of ZIKV in mice and a marked effect on fetal brain development. We found that intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of a contemporary ZIKV strain in pregnant mice led to the infection of radial glia cells (RGs) of dorsal ventricular zone of the fetuses, the primary neural progenitors responsible for cortex development, and caused a marked reduction of these cortex founder cells in the fetuses. Interestingly, the infected fetal mice exhibited a reduced cavity of lateral ventricles and a discernable decrease in surface areas of the cortex. This study thus supports the conclusion that vertically transmitted ZIKV affects fetal brain development and provides a valuable animal model for the evaluation of potential therapeutic or preventative strategies.

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