Global RNAseq of ocular cells reveals gene dysregulation in both asymptomatic and with Congenital Zika Syndrome infants exposed prenatally to Zika virus

Livia Rosa-Fernandes, Amina Bedrat, Maria Luiza B. dos Santos, Ana M. V. Pinto, Evandro Lucena, Thiago P. Silva, Rossana C. N. Melo, Giuseppe Palmisano, Claudete Araújo Cardoso, Raquel Hora Barbosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2015, Brazil reported an outbreak identified as Zika virus (ZIKV) infection associated with congenital abnormalities. To date, a total of 86 countries and territories have described evidence of Zika infection and recently the appearance of the African ZIKV lineage in Brazil highlights the risk of a new epidemic. The spectrum of ZIKV infection-induced alterations at both cellular and molecular levels is not completely elucidated. Here, we present for the first time the gene expression responses associated with prenatal ZIKV infection from ocular cells. We applied a recently developed non-invasive method (impression cytology) which use eye cells as a model for ZIKV studies. The ocular profiling revealed significant differences between exposed and control groups, as well as a different pattern in ocular transcripts from Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS) compared to ZIKV-exposed but asymptomatic infants. Our data showed pathways related to mismatch repair, cancer, and PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling and genes probably causative or protective in the modulation of ZIKV infection. Ocular cells revealed the effects of ZIKV infection on primordial neuronal cell genes, evidenced by changes in genes associated with embryonic cells. The changes in gene expression support an association with the gestational period of the infection and provide evidence for the resulting clinical and ophthalmological pathologies. Additionally, the findings of cell death- and cancer-associated deregulated genes raise concerns about the early onset of other potential pathologies including the need for tumor surveillance. Our results thus provide direct evidence that infants exposed prenatally to the Zika virus, not only with CZS but also without clinical signs (asymptomatic) express cellular and molecular changes with potential clinical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113086
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number2
Early online date10 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Zika virus
  • Congenital zika syndrome
  • Transcriptome
  • Global RNAseq
  • Neurodevelopmental dysregulation
  • Ocular abnormalities
  • Congenital Zika Syndrome


Dive into the research topics of 'Global RNAseq of ocular cells reveals gene dysregulation in both asymptomatic and with Congenital Zika Syndrome infants exposed prenatally to Zika virus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this