Infection dynamics of western equine encephalomyelitis virus (Togaviridae: Alphavirus) in four strains of Culex tarsalis (Diptera: Culicidae): an immunocytochemical study
Marco V Neira Oviedo1,2, William S Romoser1, Calvin BL James1, Farida Mahmood3, William K Reisen3
1Tropical Disease Institute, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA; 2Oxitec Inc, Oxford, England; 3Center for Vectorborne Diseases, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
Background: Vector competence describes the efficiency with which vector arthropods become infected with and transmit pathogens and depends on interactions between pathogen and arthropod genetics as well as environmental factors. For arbovirus transmission, the female mosquito ingests viremic blood, the virus infects and replicates in midgut cells, escapes from the midgut, and disseminates to other tissues, including the salivary glands. Virus-laden saliva is then injected into a new host. For transmission to occur, the virus must overcome several "barriers", including barriers to midgut infection and/or escape and salivary infection and/or escape. By examining the spatial/temporal infection dynamics of Culex tarsalis strains infected with western equine encephalomyelitis virus (WEEV), we identified tissue tropisms and potential tissue barriers, and evaluated the effects of viral dose and time postingestion.
Methods: Using immuno-stained paraffin sections, WEEV antigens were tracked in four Cx. tarsalis strains: two recently colonized California field strains – Coachella Valley, Riverside County (COAV) and Kern National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR); and two laboratory strains selected for WEEV susceptibility (high viremia producer, HVP), and WEEV resistance (WR).
Results and conclusions: Tissues susceptible to WEEV infection included midgut epithelium, neural ganglia, trachea, chorionated eggs, and salivary glands. Neuroendocrine cells in the retrocerebral complex were occasionally infected, indicating the potential for behavioral effects. The HVP and COAV strains vigorously supported viral growth, whereas the WR and KNWR strains were less competent. Consistent with earlier studies, WEEV resistance appeared to be related to a dose-dependent midgut infection barrier, and a midgut escape barrier. The midgut escape barrier was not dependent upon the ingested viral dose. Consistent with midgut infection modulation, disseminated infections were less common in the WR and KNWR strains than in the HVP and COAV strains. Once the virus disseminated from the midgut, all strains were able to develop salivary gland infections. The possible roles of observed pathology will be discussed in a subsequent paper.
Keywords: western equine encephalomyelitis virus, Culex tarsalis, vector competence, viral tropism, mosquito/virus interaction
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