Characteristics of dengue virus-infected peripheral blood mononuclear cell death that correlates with the severity of illness


Sukathida Ubol, Department of Microbiology, Mahidol University, 272 Rama 6 Road, Ratchatewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand.
Tel: 662-201-5674; fax: 662-644-5411; email:


The pathogenic mechanism of the severe form of dengue is complicated. Recent reports indicate that apoptotic death of various tissues or organs may be associated with vascular leakage, and ultimately leads to the death of DENV-infected patients. In the present study, we provide additional evidence supporting the detrimental role of apoptosis in DENV infection. A comparison of the rate of apoptosis in PBMCs isolated from patients suffering DF, a mild form of the disease, and the rate in patients with DHF, a life-threatening disease, revealed that PBMCs from DHF patients underwent apoptosis at a significantly higher rate than those suffering from DF alone. This suggests that the severity of natural DENV infection correlates with PBMC apoptosis. In addition, this cell death was induced not only by DENV itself, but also by the apoptotic activities of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, and IL-1β, that were upregulated in DHF patients. The death of these mononuclear cells that function in an innate immune system may explain the higher viral load in DHF patients than in DF patients. Interestingly, a gene expression profile pattern elucidated that apoptosis occurring during natural DENV infection involved mainly the extrinsic apoptosis pathway, which is mediated via both caspase-dependent and caspase-independent mechanisms. In conclusion, our data highlight the adverse effect of apoptosis induced by DENV and by pro-inflammatory cytokines during natural DENV infection.