N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptor blockade prevents neuronal death induced by Zika virus infection

Vivian V. Costa, Juliana L. Del Sarto, Rebeca F. Rocha, Flavia R. Silva, Juliana G. Doria, Isabella G. Olmo, Rafael E. Marques, Celso M. Queiroz-Junior, Giselle Foureaux, Julia Maria S. Araújo, Allysson Cramer, Ana Luíza C.V. Real, Lucas S. Ribeiro, Silvia I. Sardi, Anderson J. Ferreir, Fabiana S. Machado, Antônio C. De Oliveira, Antônio L. Teixeira, Helder I. Nakaya, Danielle G. SouzaFabiola M. Ribeiro, Mauro M. Teixeira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is a global health emergency that causes significant neurodegeneration. Neurodegenerative processes may be exacerbated by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent neuronal excitoxicity. Here, we have exploited the hypothesis that ZIKV-induced neurodegeneration can be rescued by blocking NMDA overstimulation with memantine. Our results show that ZIKV actively replicates in primary neurons and that virus replication is directly associated with massive neuronal cell death. Interestingly, treatment with memantine or other NMDAR blockers, including dizocilpine (MK-801), agmatine sulfate, or ifenprodil, prevents neuronal death without interfering with the ability of ZIKV to replicate in these cells. Moreover, in vivo experiments demonstrate that therapeutic memantine treatment prevents the increase of intraocular pressure (IOP) induced by infection and massively reduces neurodegeneration and microgliosis in the brain of infected mice. Our results indicate that the blockade of NMDARs by memantine provides potent neuroprotective effects against ZIKV-induced neuronal damage, suggesting it could be a viable treatment for patients at risk for ZIKV infection-induced neurodegeneration. IMPORTANCE Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is a global health emergency associated with serious neurological complications, including microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Infection of experimental animals with ZIKV causes significant neuronal damage and microgliosis. Treatment with drugs that block NMDARs prevented neuronal damage both in vitro and in vivo. These results suggest that overactivation of NMDARs contributes significantly to the neuronal damage induced by ZIKV infection, and this is amenable to inhibition by drug treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00350-17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Intraocular pressure
  • Memantine
  • Microgliosis
  • Mouse model
  • NMDA receptor
  • Neuronal death
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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