CLEC5A/MDL-1, a member of the myeloid C-type lectin family expressed on macrophages and neutrophils, is critical for dengue virus (DV)-induced hemorrhagic fever and shock syndrome in Stat1−/− mice and ConA-treated wild type mice. However, whether CLEC5A is involved in the pathogenesis of viral encephalitis has not yet been investigated. To investigate the role of CLEC5A to regulate JEV-induced neuroinflammation, antagonistic anti-CLEC5A mAb and CLEC5A-deficient mice were generated. We find that Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) directly interacts with CLEC5A and induces DAP12 phosphorylation in macrophages. In addition, JEV activates macrophages to secrete proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, which are dramatically reduced in JEV-infected Clec5a−/− macrophages. Although blockade of CLEC5A cannot inhibit JEV infection of neurons and astrocytes, anti-CLEC5A mAb inhibits JEV-induced proinflammatory cytokine release from microglia and prevents bystander damage to neuronal cells. Moreover, JEV causes blood-brain barrier (BBB) disintegrity and lethality in STAT1-deficient (Stat1−/−) mice, whereas peripheral administration of anti-CLEC5A mAb reduces infiltration of virus-harboring leukocytes into the central nervous system (CNS), restores BBB integrity, attenuates neuroinflammation, and protects mice from JEV-induced lethality. Moreover, all surviving mice develop protective humoral and cellular immunity against JEV infection. These observations demonstrate the critical role of CLEC5A in the pathogenesis of Japanese encephalitis, and identify CLEC5A as a target for the development of new treatments to reduce virus-induced brain damage.
Japanese encephalitis (JE) is one of the most common forms of viral encephalitis worldwide, and the common complication post viral encephalitis is permanent neuropsychiatric sequelae resulting from severe neuroinflammation. However, specific treatment to inhibit JEV-induced neuroinflammation is not available. We found that JEV interacts directly with CLEC5A, a C-type lectin expressed on the myeloid cell surface. This observation led to two major findings; first, we demonstrate that JEV activates macrophages and microglia via CLEC5A, and blockade of CLEC5A reduces bystander neuronal damage and JEV-induced proinflammatory cytokine secretion from macrophages and microglia. Second, peripheral administration of anti-CLEC5A mAb does not only inhibit JEV-induced BBB permeability, but also reduces the numbers of activated microglia and cell infiltration into the CNS. The attenuation of neuronal damage and reduced viral load correlate with the suppression of inflammatory cytokines TNF-α, IL-6, IL-18, and MCP-1 in the CNS. Our studies provide new insights into the molecular mechanism of neuroinflammation, and reveal a possible strategy to control neuroinflammation during viral encephalitis.