Research ArticleVIROLOGY

Zika virus degrades the ω-3 fatty acid transporter Mfsd2a in brain microvascular endothelial cells and impairs lipid homeostasis

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Science Advances  23 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax7142
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax7142


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy increases the risk of postnatal microcephaly. Neurovascular function provides a homeostatic environment for proper brain development. The major facilitator superfamily domain-containing protein 2 (Mfsd2a) is selectively expressed in human brain microvascular endothelial cells (hBMECs) and is the major transporter mediating the brain uptake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We have discovered a pivotal role for Mfsd2a in the pathogenesis of ZIKV. ZIKV disrupted Mfsd2a both in cultured primary hBMECs and in the neonatal mouse brain. ZIKV envelope (E) protein specifically interacted with Mfsd2a and promoted Mfsd2a polyubiquitination for proteasome-dependent degradation. Infection with ZIKV or ectopic expression of ZIKV E impaired Mfsd2a-mediated DHA uptake. Lipidomic analysis revealed obvious differences in DHA-containing lipids after ZIKV infection. Supplementation with DHA rescued ZIKV-caused growth restriction and microcephaly. Our findings suggest endothelial Mfsd2a as an important pathogenic mediator and supplementation with DHA as a potential therapeutic option for ZIKV infection.

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