Zika virus replication in glioblastoma cells: electron microscopic tomography shows 3D arrangement of endoplasmic reticulum, replication organelles, and viral ribonucleoproteins

Histochem Cell Biol. 2021 Sep 12;1-12. doi: 10.1007/s00418-021-02028-2. Online ahead of print.


Structural changes of two patient-derived glioblastoma cell lines after Zika virus infection were investigated using scanning transmission electron tomography on high-pressure-frozen, freeze-substituted samples. In Zika-virus-infected cells, Golgi structures were barely visible under an electron microscope, and viral factories appeared. The cytosol outside of the viral factories resembled the cytosol of uninfected cells. The viral factories contained largely deranged endoplasmic reticulum (ER), filled with many so-called replication organelles consisting of a luminal vesicle surrounded by the ER membrane. Viral capsids were observed in the vicinity of the replication organelles (cell line #12537 GB) or in ER cisternae at large distance from the replication organelles (cell line #15747 GB). Near the replication organelles, we observed many about 100-nm-long filaments that may represent viral ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs), which consist of the RNA genome and N protein oligomers. In addition, we compared Zika-virus-infected cells with cells infected with a phlebovirus (sandfly fever Turkey virus). Zika virions are formed in the ER, whereas phlebovirus virions are assembled in the Golgi apparatus. Our findings will help to understand the replication cycle in the virus factories and the building of the replication organelles in glioblastoma cells.

Keywords: Electron microscopy; Glioblastoma; High-pressure freezing; Replication organelles; STEM tomography; Sandfly fever Turkey virus; Viral ribonucleoprotein; Zika virus.