Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells are a Potential Reservoir for Ebola Virus in the Human Eye

Justine Smith, Shawn Todd, Liam Ashander, Theodosia Charitou, Yuefang Ma, Steven Yeh, Ian Crozier, Michael Michael, Binoy Appukuttan, Keryn Williams, David Lynn, Glenn Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Success of Ebola virus (EBOV) as a human pathogen relates at the molecular level primarily to blockade the host cell type I interferon (IFN) antiviral response. Most individuals who survive Ebola virus disease (EVD) develop a chronic disease syndrome: approximately one-quarter of survivors suffer from uveitis, which has been associated with presence of EBOV within the eye. Clinical observations of post-Ebola uveitis indicate involvement of retinal pigment epithelial cells. Methods: We inoculated ARPE-19 human retinal pigment epithelial cells with EBOV, and followed course of infection by immunocytochemistry and measurement of titer in culture supernatant. To interrogate transcriptional responses of infected cells, we combined RNA sequencing with in silico pathway, gene ontology, transcription factor binding site, and network analyses. We measured infection-induced changes of selected transcripts by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Results: Human retinal pigment epithelial cells were permissive to infection with EBOV, and supported viral replication and release of virus in high titer. Unexpectedly, 28% of 560 upregulated transcripts in EBOV-infected cells were type I IFN responsive, indicating a robust type I IFN response. Following EBOV infection, cells continued to express multiple immunomodulatory molecules linked to ocular immune privilege. Conclusions: Human retinal pigment epithelial cells may serve as an intraocular reservoir for EBOV, and the molecular response of infected cells may contribute to the persistence of live EBOV within the human eye. Translational Relevance: This bedside-to-bench research links ophthalmic findings in survivors of EVD who suffer from uveitis with interactions between retinal pigment epithelial cells and EBOV.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Number of pages15
JournalTranslational Vision Science & Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Ebola virus
  • Eye
  • Human
  • Infection
  • Pigment epithelial cell


Dive into the research topics of 'Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells are a Potential Reservoir for Ebola Virus in the Human Eye'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this