Virus infections of the central nervous system (CNS) can manifest in various forms of inflammation, including that of the brain (encephalitis) and spinal cord (myelitis), all of which may have long-lasting deleterious consequences. Although the knowledge of how different viruses affect neural cells is increasing, understanding of the mechanisms by which cells respond to neurotropic viruses remains fragmented. Several virus types have the ability to infect neural tissue, and astrocytes, an abundant and heterogeneous neuroglial cell type and a key element providing CNS homeostasis, are one of the first CNS cell types to get infected. Astrocytes are morphologically closely aligned with neuronal synapses, blood vessels, and ventricle cavities, and thereby have the capacity to functionally interact with neurons and endothelial cells. In this review, we focus on the responses of astrocytes to infection by neurotropic flaviviruses, including tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), Zika virus (ZIKV), West Nile virus (WNV), and Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), which have all been confirmed to infect astrocytes and cause multiple CNS defects. Understanding these mechanisms may help design new strategies to better contain and mitigate virus- and astrocyte-dependent neuroinflammation.
Keywords: JEV; TBEV; WNV; ZIKV; astrocytes; encephalitis; flavivirus; neuroinfections.