Zika virus (ZIKV) compromises placental integrity, infecting the fetus. However, the mechanisms associated with ZIKV penetration into the placenta leading to fetal infection are unknown. Cystatin B (CSTB), the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE), and tyrosine-protein kinase receptor UFO (AXL) have been implicated in ZIKV infection and inflammation. This work investigates CSTB, RAGE, and AXL receptor expression and activation pathways in ZIKV-infected placental tissues at term. The hypothesis is that there is overexpression of CSTB and increased inflammation affecting RAGE and AXL receptor expression in ZIKV-infected placentas. Pathological analyses of 22 placentas were performed to determine changes caused by ZIKV infection. Quantitative proteomics, immunofluorescence, and western blot were performed to analyze proteins and pathways affected by ZIKV infection in frozen placentas. The pathological analysis confirmed decreased size of capillaries, hyperplasia of Hofbauer cells, disruption in the trophoblast layer, cell agglutination, and ZIKV localization to the trophoblast layer. In addition, there was a significant decrease in CSTB, RAGE, and AXL expression and upregulation of caspase 1, tubulin beta, and heat shock protein 27. Modulation of these proteins and activation of inflammasome and pyroptosis pathways suggest targets for modulation of ZIKV infection in the placenta.
Keywords: Hofbauer cells (HC); Zika virus (ZIKV); placenta; tandem mass tagging (TMT); trophoblast.