DOI: 10.3390/v15091827 ISSN:

Adipose Tissues from Human and Bat-Derived Cell Lines Support Ebola Virus Infection

Lauren Garnett, Kaylie N. Tran, Zachary Schiffman, Kristina A. Muise, Quinn E. Fletcher, Yvonne A. Dzal, Anders Leung, Alix Albietz, Bryce M. Warner, Bryan D. Griffin, Darwyn Kobasa, Craig K. R. Willis, James E. Strong
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases

Ebola virus is a zoonotic pathogen with a geographic range covering diverse ecosystems that are home to many potential reservoir species. Although researchers have detected Ebola virus RNA and serological evidence of previous infection in different rodents and bats, the infectious virus has not been isolated. The field is missing critical knowledge about where the virus is maintained between outbreaks, either because the virus is rarely encountered, overlooked during sampling, and/or requires specific unknown conditions that regulate viral expression. This study assessed adipose tissue as a previously overlooked tissue capable of supporting Ebola virus infection. Adipose tissue is a dynamic endocrine organ helping to regulate and coordinate homeostasis, energy metabolism, and neuroendocrine and immune functions. Through in vitro infection of human and bat (Eptesicus fuscus) brown adipose tissue cultures using wild-type Ebola virus, this study showed high levels of viral replication for 28 days with no qualitative indicators of cytopathic effects. In addition, alterations in adipocyte metabolism following long-term infection were qualitatively observed through an increase in lipid droplet number while decreasing in size, a harbinger of lipolysis or adipocyte browning. The finding that bat and human adipocytes are susceptible to Ebola virus infection has important implications for potential tissue tropisms that have not yet been investigated. Additionally, the findings suggest how the metabolism of this tissue may play a role in pathogenesis, viral transmission, and/or zoonotic spillover events.

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