Failure of Propagation of Human Norovirus in Intestinal Epithelial Cells With Microvilli Grown in Three-Dimensional Cultures

Arch Virol. 2014 Feb;159(2):257-66. doi: 10.1007/s00705-013-1806-4. Epub 2013 Aug 23.


Human noroviruses (HuNoVs) are a leading cause of acute gastroenteritis. Establishment of a cell culture system for in vitro HuNoV growth remains challenging. Replication of HuNoVs in human intestinal cell lines (INT-407 and Caco-2) that differentiate to produce microvilli in rotation wall vessel (RWV) three-dimensional cultures has been reported (Straub et al. in Emerg Infect Dis 13:396-403, 2007; J Water Health 9:225-240, 2011, and Water Sci Technol 67:863-868, 2013). We used a similar RWV system, intestinal cell lines, and the same (Genogroup [G] I.1) plus additional (GII.4 and GII.12) HuNoV strains to test the system's reproducibility and to expand the earlier findings. Apical microvilli were observed on the surface of both cell lines by light and electron microscopy. However, none of the cell types tested resulted in productive viral replication of any of the HuNoV strains, as confirmed by plateau or declining viral RNA titers in the supernatants and cell lysates of HuNoV-infected cells, determined by real-time reverse transcription PCR. These trends were the same when culture supplements were added that have been reported to be effective for replication of other fastidious enteric viruses in vitro. Additionally, by confocal microscopy and orthoslice analysis, viral capsid proteins were mainly observed above the actin filament signals, which suggested that the majority of viral antigens were on the cell surface. We conclude that even intestinal cells displaying microvilli were not sufficient to support HuNoV replication under the conditions tested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Epithelial Cells / virology*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy
  • Microvilli / ultrastructure
  • Norovirus / physiology*
  • Viral Load
  • Virus Replication*