Patients with dengue virus (DENV) infection may also present acute viral encephalitis through an unknown mechanism. Here, we report that encephalitic DENV-infected mice exhibited progressive hunchback posture, limbic seizures, limbic weakness, paralysis, and lethality 7 days post-infection. These symptoms were accompanied by CNS inflammation, neurotoxicity, and blood-brain barrier destruction. Microglial cells surrounding the blood vessels and injured hippocampus regions were activated by DENV infection. Pharmacologically depleting microglia unexpectedly increased viral replication, neuropathy, and mortality in DENV-infected mice. In microglia-depleted mice, the DENV infection-mediated expression of antiviral cytokines and the infiltration of CD8-positive cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) was abolished. DENV infection prompted the antigen-presenting cell-like differentiation of microglia, which in turn stimulated CTL proliferation and activation. These results suggest that microglial cells play a key role in facilitating antiviral immune responses against DENV infection and acute viral encephalitis.
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