Congenital infection by human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) might result in permanent neurological sequelae, including sensorineural deafness, cerebral palsies or devastating neurodevelopmental abnormalities. We recently disclosed that Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor gamma (PPARγ), a transcription factor of the nuclear receptor superfamily, is a key determinant of HCMV pathogenesis in developing brain. Using neural stem cells from human embryonic stem cells, we showed that HCMV infection strongly increases levels and activity of PPARγ in NSCs. Further in vitro experiments showed that PPARγ activity inhibits the neuronogenic differentiation of NSCs into neurons. Consistently, increased PPARγ expression was found in brain section of fetuses infected by HCMV, but not in uninfected controls. In this commentary, we summarize and discuss our findings and the new insights they provide on the neuropathogenesis of HCMV congenital infection.
Keywords: PPARγ; congenital infection; cytomegalovirus; neural stem cells.