Persistence of human bocavirus 1 in tonsillar germinal centers and antibody-dependent enhancement of infection

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Human bocavirus 1 (HBoV1), a nonenveloped single-stranded DNA parvovirus, causes mild to life-threatening respiratory tract infections, acute otitis media, and encephalitis in young children. HBoV1 often persists in nasopharyngeal secretions for months, hampering diagnosis. It has also been shown to persist in pediatric palatine and adenoid tonsils, which suggests that lymphoid organs are reservoirs for virus spread; however, the tissue site and host cells remain unknown. Our aim was to determine, in healthy nonviremic children with preexisting HBoV1 immunity, the adenotonsillar persistence site(s), host cell types, and virus activity. We discovered that HBoV1 DNA persists in lymphoid germinal centers (GCs), but not in the corresponding tonsillar epithelium, and that the cell types harboring the virus are mainly naive, activated, and memory B cells and monocytes. Both viral DNA strands and both sides of the genome were detected, as well as infrequent mRNA. Moreover, we showed, in B-cell and monocyte cultures and ex vivo tonsillar B cells, that the cellular uptake of HBoV1 occurs via the Fc receptor (FcγRII) through antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). This resulted in viral mRNA transcription, known to occur exclusively from double-stranded DNA in the nucleus, however, with no detectable productive replication. Confocal imaging with fluorescent virus-like particles moreover disclosed endocytosis. To which extent the active HBoV1 GC persistence has a role in chronic inflammation or B-cell maturation disturbances, and whether the virus can be reactivated, will be interesting topics for forthcoming studies.

IMPORTANCE Human bocavirus 1 (HBoV1), a common pediatric respiratory pathogen, can persist in airway secretions for months hampering diagnosis. It also persists in tonsils, providing potential reservoirs for airway shedding, with the exact location, host cell types, and virus activity unknown. Our study provides new insights into tonsillar HBoV1 persistence. We observed HBoV1 persistence exclusively in germinal centers where immune maturation occurs, and the main host cells were B cells and monocytes. In cultured cell lines and primary tonsillar B cells, we showed the virus uptake to be significantly enhanced by HBoV1-specific antibodies, mediated by the cellular IgG receptor, leading to viral mRNA synthesis, but without detectable productive replication. Possible implications of such active viral persistence could be tonsillar inflammation, disturbances in immune maturation, reactivation, or cell death with release of virus DNA, explaining the long-lasting HBoV1 airway shedding.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberARTN e03132-20
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 3111 Biomedicine
  • 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
  • 11832 Microbiology and virology
  • parvovirus
  • germinal center
  • tonsils
  • virus persistence
  • ADE
  • in situ hybridization
  • CELL-LINE U937

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