African and Asian strains of Zika virus differ in their ability to infect and lyse primitive human placental trophoblast.


Zika virus (ZIKV) drew worldwide attention when a recent epidemic was linked to fetal microcephaly. Here we used human embryonic stem cell derived trophoblasts as a model for primitive placental trophoblast to test the hypothesis that there are differences in how the two genetically distinct ZIKV lineages, African (AF) and Asian (AS), target the human placenta. Upon infection with three AF (ib-H30656, SEN/1984/41525-DAK, and MR-766) and three AS (FSS13025, MexI-44, and PANcdc259249) ZIKV strains, we observed that severe placental cell lysis was only induced after infection with AF strains, while viral replication rates remained similar between both lineages. Differences in cytopathic effects (CPE) were not observed in Vero cells, indicating that the AF strains were not inherently superior at cell lysis. Taken together, we propose that infection with AF strains of ZIKV early in pregnancy would likely result in pregnancy loss, rather than allow further fetal development with accompanying brain damage. Our results also suggest that the long term laboratory-adapted MR-766 strain does not behave aberrantly in cell culture relative to other AF lineage strains.





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Publication Info

Sheridan, Megan A, Velmurugan Balaraman, Danny J Schust, Toshihiko Ezashi, R Michael Roberts and Alexander WE Franz (2018). African and Asian strains of Zika virus differ in their ability to infect and lyse primitive human placental trophoblast. PloS one, 13(7). p. e0200086. 10.1371/journal.pone.0200086 Retrieved from

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Danny J Schust

Edwin Crowell Hamblen Distinguished Professor of Reproductive Biology and Family Planning

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