Monocyte recruitment to the dermis and differentiation to dendritic cells increases the targets for dengue virus replication.


Dengue virus (DENV) causes the most prevalent arthropod-borne viral disease in humans. Although Aedes mosquitoes transmit DENV when probing for blood in the skin, no information exists on DENV infection and immune response in the dermis, where the blood vessels are found. DENV suppresses the interferon response, replicates, and causes disease in humans but not wild-type mice. Here, we used mice lacking the interferon-α/β receptor (Ifnar(-/-)), which had normal cell populations in the skin and were susceptible to intradermal DENV infection, to investigate the dynamics of early DENV infection of immune cells in the skin. CD103(+) classical dendritic cells (cDCs), Ly6C(-) CD11b(+) cDCs, and macrophages in the steady-state dermis were initial targets of DENV infection 12-24 hours post-inoculation but then decreased in frequency. We demonstrated recruitment of adoptively-transferred Ly6C(high) monocytes from wild-type and Ifnar(-/-) origin to the DENV-infected dermis and differentiation to Ly6C(+) CD11b(+) monocyte-derived DCs (moDCs), which became DENV-infected after 48 hours, and were then the major targets for virus replication. Ly6C(high) monocytes that entered the DENV-infected dermis expressed chemokine receptor CCR2, likely mediating recruitment. Further, we show that ∼ 100-fold more hematopoietic cells in the dermis were DENV-infected compared to Langerhans cells in the epidermis. Overall, these results identify the dermis as the main site of early DENV replication and show that DENV infection in the skin occurs in two waves: initial infection of resident cDCs and macrophages, followed by infection of monocytes and moDCs that are recruited to the dermis. Our study reveals a novel viral strategy of exploiting monocyte recruitment to increase the number of targets for infection at the site of invasion in the skin and highlights the skin as a potential site for therapeutic action or intradermal vaccination.

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