Intrinsic apoptosis and cytokine induction regulated in human tonsillar epithelial cells infected with enterovirus A71

Menghuai Sun, Kunlong Yan, Chunyang Wang, Jiao Xing, Zhaojun Duan, Yu Jin, Carol J. Cardona, Zheng Xing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Enterovirus A71 (EV-A71) has emerged as a clinically important neurotropic virus following poliovirus eradication. Recent studies have shown that human tonsillar epithelial cell lines (UT-SCC-60A and UT-SCC-60B) were susceptible to EV-A71, suggesting that human tonsillar crypt epithelium could be important in EV-A71 pathogenesis. However, the mechanism about how EV-A71 infects the upper oro-digestive tract remains largely unclear. In this study, we demonstrated that the human tonsillar epithelial cells infected with EV-A71 underwent apoptotic, in which cytochrome c was released from the mitochondria to the cytosol and caspase-9 was activated, while caspase-2 and -8 were not cleaved or activated during the infection. A selective inhibitor of caspase-9, Z-LEHD-FMK, inhibited the cleavage of the executioner caspase-3 and -7, indicating that only mitochondria-mediated intrinsic apoptotic pathway was activated in EV-A71-infected tonsillar epithelial cells. No evidence of pyroptosis or necroptosis was involved in the cell death. EV-A71 infection induced interferon, pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, including IFN-β, IL-6, CCL5, and TNF-α in tonsillar epithelial cells, which may play a critical role in EV-A71-caused herpangina. Our data indicated that the induction of the cytokines was partially regulated by the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) signaling pathway. The findings unveiled the host response to EV-A71 and its regulation mechanism, and will further our understanding the significance about the tonsillar crypt epithelium as the initial and primary portal in viral pathogenesis for EV-A71 infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0245529
JournalPloS one
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported partially by funding grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to Z.X. (No. 83452147), Y.J. (81672020), and C.W. (81702010). NSFC plays no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of this manuscript. There was no additional external funding received for this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Sun et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line
  • Cytochromes c/metabolism
  • Cytokines/metabolism
  • Enterovirus A, Human/physiology
  • Epithelial Cells/pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Palatine Tonsil/pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2/metabolism
  • Virus Replication

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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