Activation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor α7 subunit limits Zika viral infection via promoting autophagy and ferroptosis

Mol Ther. 2024 May 30:S1525-0016(24)00339-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2024.05.037. Online ahead of print.


Vagus nerve regulates viral infection and inflammation via the alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7 nAChR); however, the role of α7 nAChR in ZIKA virus (ZIKV) infection, which can cause severe neurological diseases such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, remains unknown. Here, we first examined the role of α7 nAChR in ZIKV infection in vitro. A broad effect of α7 nAChR activation was identified in limiting ZIKV infection in multiple cell lines. Combined with transcriptomics analysis, we further demonstrated that α7 nAChR activation promoted autophagy and ferroptosis pathways to limit cellular ZIKV viral loads. Additionally, activation of α7 nAChR prevented ZIKV-induced p62 nucleus accumulation, which mediated an enhanced autophagy pathway. By regulating proteasome complex and an E3 ligase NEDD4, activation of α7 nAChR resulted in increased amount of cellular p62, which further enhanced ferroptosis pathway to reduce ZIKV infection. Moreover, utilizing in vivo neonatal mouse models, we showed that α7 nAChR is essential in controlling the disease severity of ZIKV infection. Taken together, our findings identify an α7 nAChR-mediated effect that critically contributes to limiting ZIKV infection, and α7 nAChR activation offers a novel strategy for combating ZIKV infection and its complications.

PMID:38822526 | DOI:10.1016/j.ymthe.2024.05.037