Sindbis virus (SV) causes acute encephalomyelitis by infecting and inducing the death of neurons. Induction of apoptosis occurs during virus entry and involves acid-induced conformational changes in the viral surface glycoproteins and sphingomyelin (SM)-dependent fusion of the virus envelope with the endosomal membrane. We have studied neuroblastoma cells to determine how this entry process triggers cell death. Acidic sphingomyelinase was activated during entry followed by activation of neutral sphingomyelinase, SM degradation, and a sustained increase in ceramide. Ceramide-induced apoptosis and SV-induced apoptosis could be inhibited by treatment with Z-VAD-fmk, a caspase inhibitor, and by overexpression of BcI-2, an antiapoptotic cellular protein. Acid ceramidase, expressed in a recombinant SV, decreased intracellular ceramide and protected cells from apoptosis. The data suggest that acid-induced SM-dependent virus fusion initiates the apoptotic cascade by inducing SM degradation and ceramide release.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science