CARD9 deficiency increases hippocampal injury following acute neurotropic picornavirus infection but does not affect pathogen elimination
Neurotropic viruses target the brain and contribute to neurologic diseases. Caspase recruitment domain containing family member 9 (CARD9) controls protective immunity in a variety of infectious disorders. To investigate the effect of CARD9 in neurotropic virus infection, CARD9-/- and corresponding C57BL/6 wild-type control mice were infected with Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV). Brain tissue was analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry and molecular analyses, and spleens by flow cytometry. To determine the impact of CARD9 deficiency on T cell responses in vitro, antigen presentation assays were utilized. Genetic ablation of CARD9 enhanced early pro-inflammatory cytokine responses and accelerated infiltration of T and B cells in the brain, together with a transient increase in TMEV-infected cells in the hippocampus. CARD9-/- mice showed an increased loss of neuronal nuclear protein+ mature neurons and doublecortin+ neuronal precursor cells and an increase in β-amyloid precursor protein+ damaged axons in the hippocampus. No effect of CARD9 deficiency was found on the initiation of CD8+ T cell responses by flow cytometry and co-culture experiments using virus-exposed dendritic cells or microglia-enriched glial cell mixtures, respectively. The present study indicates that CARD9 is dispensable for the initiation of early antiviral responses and TMEV elimination but may contribute to the modulation of neuroinflammation, thereby reducing hippocampal injury following neurotropic virus infection.