Image_2_Neonatal Zika virus infection causes transient perineuronal net degradation.TIF
Perineuronal nets (PNNs) form a specialized extracellular matrix that predominantly surrounds parvalbumin (PV)-expressing GABAergic inhibitory interneurons and help regulate neuronal activity. Their formation early in the postnatal period is regulated by neuronal signaling and glial activation raising concerns that part of the long-term effects ascribed to perinatal viral infections could be mediated by altered PNN formation. Previously, we developed a model of neonatal Zika virus (ZIKV) infection where mice have lifelong neurological sequelae that includes motor disfunction and reduced anxiety coupled with a persistent low-grade expression in proinflammatory markers despite resolving the acute infection. Here, we demonstrate that ZIKV infection to P1 neonatal mice results in a reduction of PNN formation during the acute disease with significant reduction in Wisteria floribunda agglutinin (WFA) staining at the peak of infection [15 days post infection (dpi)] that persisted after the symptoms resolved (30 dpi). At 60 dpi, when there is residual inflammation in the CNS, the number of WFA+ cells and the level of WFA staining as well as levels of aggrecan and brevican in the brains of convalescent mice were not different from those in uninfected controls, however, there was increased frequency of PNNs with an immature phenotype. Over time the impact of the perinatal infection became less evident and there were no clear differences in PNN morphology between the groups at 1 year post infection. Of note, the reduction in PNNs during acute ZIKV infection was not associated with decreased mRNA levels of aggrecan or brevican, but increased levels of degraded aggrecan and brevican indicating increased PNN degradation. These changes were associated with increased expression of matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12) and MMP19, but not MMP9, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 4 (ADAMTS4) or ADAMTS5. Together our findings indicate that infection at the time of PNN development interferes with PNN formation, but the nets can reform once the infection and inflammation subside.