Replication of Zika virus in human prostate cells: A potential source of sexually transmitted virus

Jennifer L. Spencer, Anismrita Lahon, Linda L. Tran, Ravi P. Arya, Alexander R. Kneubehl, Megan B. Vogt, Daniela Xavier, David R. Rowley, Jason T. Kimata, Rebecca R. Rico-Hesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background. While Zika virus (ZIKV) is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, numerous cases of sexual transmission have been reported during recent outbreaks. Little is known about which host cell types or entry factors aid in mediating this sexual transmission. Methods. In this study, we investigated ZIKV cell tropism by infecting 2 types of human prostate cells with 3 contemporary ZIKV isolates from persons infected in the Americas. We used real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and immunofluorescence analyses to measure infection and flow cytometry to detect entry factor expression. Results. Here we show that ZIKV infects, replicates, and produces infectious virus in prostate stromal mesenchymal stem cells, epithelial cells, and organoids made with a combination of these cells. We also show that prostate cells express several well-characterized flavivirus attachment factors. In contrast, dengue virus does not infect or does not replicate in these prostate cells, although it is known to use similar receptors. Conclusions. Our results indicate that ZIKV favors infection of stromal cells more so than epithelial cells in organoids, possibly indicating a preference for stem cells in general. Overall, these results suggest that ZIKV replication occurs in the human prostate and can account for ZIKV secretion in semen, thus leading to sexual transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-547
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Prostate
  • Sexual transmission
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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