Background: Recent studies have shown that dengue virus (DENV) can efficiently infect bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as well as the placenta of pregnant women. Although mother-to-infant vertical transmission of DENV through the placenta has been well documented, the evidence of cell-associated vertical transmission is still unknown. Whether DENV can infect umbilical cord blood (UCB) cells before reaching the fetus remains to be explored. Here, we proposed that human UCB cells were permissive to the DENV infection and DENV infected CD133+ and CD34+ HSCs are reservoir of the virus that could be reactivated upon re-culturing in suitable cells. Methods: Human UCB cells were freshly obtained and subjected to DENV infection. Multicolor flow cytometry (MFCM) was used to demonstrate the phenotypes of the infected HSC populations. Immunofluorescence analysis (IFA) and T-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE) were used to show the association of the DENV antigen, non-structural protein1 (NS1) with HSCs. Key findings: UCB cells were highly permissive to DENV infection. DENV altered the phenotype of the infected HSC population, increased the expression of HSCs, and affected the balance of transcription factors (TFs, GATA1/2/3). IFA revealed the association of the DENV antigen, non-structural protein1 (NS1), with CD34+ and CD133+ cells. T-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE) analysis revealed heterogeneity in the distribution of CD133+NS1+, and CD34+ NS1+ cells. DENV particles were recovered from CD133+ and CD34+ cells even when virus production in the supernatant was negligible. Significance: We predict that infection of CD133+ and CD34+ cells in the UCB serve as reservoirs for the amplification of DENV in UCB prior to the virus reaching the fetus and facilitate vertical transmission.
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