Immunopathogenetic mechanisms of dengue virus (DENV) infection are involved in hemorrhagic syndrome resulting from thrombocytopenia, coagulopathy, and vasculopathy. We have proposed a mechanism of molecular mimicry in which Abs against DENV nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) cross-react with human endothelial cells and cause NF-κB-regulated immune activation and NO-mediated apoptosis. However, the signaling pathway leading to NF-κB activation after the binding of anti-DENV NS1 Abs to endothelial cells is unresolved. In this study, we found that anti-DENV NS1 Abs caused the formation of lipid raftlike structures, and that disrupting lipid raft formation by methyl-β-cyclodextrin decreased NO production and apoptosis. Treatment with anti-DENV NS1 Abs elevated ceramide generation in lipid rafts. Pharmacological inhibition of acid sphingomyelinase (aSMase) decreased anti-DENV NS1 Ab-mediated ceramide and NO production, as well as apoptosis. Exogenous ceramide treatment induced biogenesis of inducible NO synthase (iNOS)/NO and apoptosis through an NF-κB-regulated manner. Furthermore, activation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) was required for ceramide-induced NF-κB activation and iNOS expression. Notably, anti-DENV NS1 Abs caused GSK-3β-mediated NF-κB activation and iNOS expression, which were regulated by aSMase. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of GSK-3β reduced hepatic endothelial cell apoptosis in mice passively administered anti-DENV NS1 Abs. These results suggest that anti-DENV NS1 Abs bind to the endothelial cell membrane and cause NO production and apoptosis via a mechanism involving the aSMase/ceramide/GSK-3β/NF-κB/iNOS/NO signaling pathway.
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