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This article is the author’s final published version in Journal of Virology, Volume 95, Issue 21, October 2021, Article number e00406-21.

The published version is available at Copyright © Tripathi et al.


Interferon regulatory factor 8 (IRF8), a myeloid lineage transcription factor, emerges as an essential regulator for microglial activation. However, the precise role of IRF8 during Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) infection in the brain remains elusive. Here, we report that JEV infection enhances IRF8 expression in the infected mouse brain. Comparative transcriptional profiling of whole-brain RNA analysis and validation by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) reveals an impaired interferon gamma (IFN-g) and related gene expression in Irf8 knockout (Irf82/2)-infected mice. Further, Ifng knockout (Ifng2/2) mice exhibit a reduced level of Irf8. Both Ifng2/2 and Irf82/2 mice exhibit significantly reduced levels of activated (CD11b1 CD45hi, CD11b1 CD45lo, Cd68, and CD86) and infiltrating immune cells (Ly6C1, CD4, and CD8) in the infected brain compared to those of wild-type (WT) mice. However, a higher level of granulocyte cell (Ly6G1) infiltration is evident in Irf82/2 mice as well as the increased concentration of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), interleukin-6 (IL-6), monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP1) levels in the brain. Interestingly, neither the Irf82/2 nor the Ifng2/2 conferred protection against lethal JEV challenge to mice and exhibit augmentation in JEV replication in the brain. The gain of function of Irf8 by overexpressing functional IRF8 in an IRF8-deficient cell line attenuates viral replication and enhances IFN-g production. Overall, we summarize that in the murine model of JEV encephalitis, IRF8 modulation affects JEV replication. We also show that lack of Irf8 affects immune cell abundance in circulation and the infected brain, leading to a reduction in IFN-g level and increased viral load in the brain. IMPORTANCE Microglial cells, the resident macrophages in the brain, play a vital role in Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) pathogenesis. The deregulated activity of microglia can be lethal for the brain. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the regulators that drive microglia phenotype changes and induce inflammation in the brain. Interferon regulatory factor 8 (IRF8) is a myeloid lineage transcription factor involved in microglial activation. However, the impact of IRF8 modulation on JEV replication remains elusive. Moreover, the pathways regulated by IRF8 to initiate and amplify pathological neuroinflammation are not well understood. Here, we demonstrated the effect of IRF8 modulation on JEV replication, microglial activation, and immune cells infiltration in the brain.

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