Emerging RNA viruses that target the central nervous system (CNS) lead to cognitive sequelae in survivors. Studies in humans and mice infected with West Nile virus (WNV), a re-emerging RNA virus associated with learning and memory deficits, revealed microglial-mediated synapse elimination within the hippocampus. Moreover, CNS-resident memory T (TRM) cells activate microglia, limiting synapse recovery and inducing spatial learning defects in WNV-recovered mice. The signals involved in T cell-microglia interactions are unknown.
Here, we examined immune cells within the murine WNV-recovered forebrain using single-cell RNA sequencing to identify putative ligand-receptor pairs involved in intercellular communication between T cells and microglia. Clustering and differential gene analyses were followed by protein validation and genetic and antibody-based approaches utilizing an established murine model of WNV recovery in which microglia and complement promote ongoing hippocampal synaptic loss.
Profiling of host transcriptome immune cells at 25 days post-infection in mice revealed a shift in forebrain homeostatic microglia to activated subpopulations with transcriptional signatures that have previously been observed in studies of neurodegenerative diseases. Importantly, CXCL16/CXCR6, a chemokine signaling pathway involved in TRM cell biology, was identified as critically regulating CXCR6 expressing CD8+TRM cell numbers within the WNV-recovered forebrain. We demonstrate that CXCL16 is highlymore »
We provide a comprehensive assessment of the role of CXCL16/CXCR6 as an interaction link between microglia and CD8+T cells that maintains forebrain TRM cells, microglial and astrocyte activation, and ongoing synapse elimination in virally recovered animals. We also show that therapeutic targeting of CXCL16 in mice during recovery may reduce CNS CD8+TRM cells.