Viral infections have always been the cause of serious human diseases usually increasing rates of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Recently, a flavivirus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti vector, called Zika virus (ZIKV) was introduced in South America, causing a major public health problem. Initially it was not considered a threat to human health, with few cases reported mainly in Africa and Asia. However, in 2007 and 2014, outbreaks occurred in Micronesia and French Polynesia respectively, evidencing this as a potential pathogen of clinical importance. On February 1st, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of global emergency after the alarming increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly and adults with Guillain Barré syndrome in our country, both related to the infection. Recent works have shown that the virus is able to cross a placenta and reach the fetal brain, mainly causing the death of neuronal precursor cells and subsequent reduction of the brain and cranial measurements. Genetic differences, mainly related to type I IFN, may greatly influence the susceptibility to infection. These molecules interact with their IFNAR receptor, triggering athe expression of IFNs stimulated genes (ISGs). ISGs contemplate many important molecules that blocks the viral replication cycle, through the synthesis of lytic proteins or even through the induction of cell death. ISGs can also be modulated by a number of other factors through post-transcriptional mechanisms and, in this context, miRNAs may play a key role. However, still very little is known about the involvement of miRNAs in this infection. In this context, in this project we aim to elucidate the role of miRNAs in the experimental infection by ZIKV and, mainly, relating their target genes with the establishment of microcephaly and cerebral lesions. We will use experimental approaches in vitro using cells of the central nervous system and in vivo, with SJL animals susceptible to infection. The results obtained will help to elucidate the immunopathogenic mechanisms of microcephaly caused by ZIKV.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: