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  • 1.
    Asghar, Naveed
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.
    Ticks and Tick-borne Encephalitis Virus: From Nature to Infection2016Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Vector-borne diseases are an increasing global threat to humans due to climate changes, elevating the risk of infections transmitted by mosquitos, ticks, and other arthropod vectors. Ixodes ricinus, a common tick in Europe, transmits dangerous tick-borne pathogens to humans. Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a vector-borne disease caused by TBE virus (TBEV). Climate change has contributed to increased tick abundance and incidence of tick-borne diseases, and between 10,000 and 15,000 human TBE cases are reported annually in Europe and Asia. TBEV shows a patchy geographical distribution pattern where each patch represents a natural focus. In nature, TBEV is maintained within the tick-rodent enzootic cycle. Co-feeding is the main route for TBEV transmission from infected to uninfected ticks and for maintenance within the natural foci. The increasing number of TBE cases in Scandinavia highlights the importance of characterizing additional TBEV sequences and of identifying novel natural foci, and in this work we sequenced and phylogenetically characterized four TBEV strains: Saringe-2009 (from a blood-fed nymph), JP-296 (from a questing adult male), JP-554 (from a questing adult male), and Mandal-2009 (from a pool of questing nymphs, n = 10). Mandal-2009 represents a TBEV genome from a natural focus in southern Norway. Saringe-2009 is from a natural endemic focus in northern Stockholm, Sweden, and JP-296 and JP-554 originate from a natural focus “Torö” in southern Stockholm. In addition, we have studied the effect of different biotic and abiotic factors on population dynamics of I. ricinus in southern Stockholm and observed significant spatiotemporal variations in tick activity patterns. Seasonal synchrony of immature stages and total tick abundance are important factors for the probability of horizontal transmission of TBEV among co-feeding ticks. We found that the probability of co-occurrence of larvae, nymphs, and female adults was highest during early summer whereas increasing vegetation height and increasing amounts of forest and open water around the study sites had a significant negative effect on co-occurrence of larvae, nymphs, and female adults.

    The proximal part of the 3 ́non-coding region (3 ́NCR) of TBEV contains an internal poly(A) tract, and genomic analysis of Saringe-2009 revealed variability in the poly(A) tract indicating the existence of different variants within the TBEV pool of Saringe-2009. Like other RNA viruses, TBEV exists as swarms of unique variants called quasispecies. Because Saringe-2009 came from an engorged nymph that had been feeding on blood for >60 h, we propose that Saringe-2009 represents a putative shift in the TBEV pool when the virus switches from ectothermic/tick to endothermic/mammalian environments. We investigated the role of poly(A) tract variability in replication and virulence of TBEV by generating two infectious clones of the TBEV strain Toro-2003, one with a short/wild-type (A)3C(A)6 poly(A) tract and one with a long (A)3C(A)38 poly(A) tract. The infectious clone with the long poly(A) tract showed poor replication in cell culture but was more virulent in C57BL/6 mice than the wild-type clone. RNA folding predictions of the TBEV genomes suggested that insertion of a long poly(A) tract abolishes a stem loop structure at the beginning of the 3 ́NCR. Next generation sequencing (NGS) analysis of the TBEV genomes after passaging in cell culture and/or mouse brain revealed molecular determinants and quasispecies structure that might contribute to the observed differences in virulence. Our findings suggest that the long poly(A) tract imparts instability to the TBEV genome resulting in higher quasispecies diversity that in turn contributes to TBEV virulence. Phylogenetic analysis of Saringe-2009, JP-296, JP-554, and Mandal-2009 predicted a strong evolutionary relationship among the four strains. They clustered with Toro-2003, the first TBEV strain from Torö, demonstrating a Scandinavian clade. Except for the proximal part of the 3 ́NCR, TBEV is highly conserved in its genomic structure. Genomic analysis revealed that Mandal-2009 contains a truncated 3 ́NCR similar to the highly virulent strain Hypr, whereas JP-296 and JP-554 have a genomic organization identical to Toro-2003, the prototypic TBEV strain from the same natural focus. NGS revealed significantly higher quasispecies diversity for JP-296 and JP-554 compared to Mandal-2009. In addition, single nucleotide polymerphism (SNP) analysis showed that 40% of the SNPs were common between quasispecies populations of JP-296 and JP-554, indicating the persistence and maintenance of TBEV quasispecies within the natural focus.

    Taken together, these findings indicate the importance of environmental factors for the occurrence pattern of the different life-stages of the tick vector, which are important for the persistence of TBEV in nature. Our findings also show that the selection pressure exerted by specific host also affects the population structure of the TBEV quasispecies. In addition, our results further demonstrate that the evolution of quasispecies has effect on TBEV virulence in mice.

  • 2.
    Asghar, Naveed
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Örebro universitet.
    Lee, Yi-Ping
    Umeå universitet.
    Nilsson, Emma
    Umeå universitet.
    Lindqvist, Rickard
    Umeå universitet.
    Melik, Wessam
    Örebro universitet.
    Kröger, Andrea
    6Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany / University of Magdeburg, Magdenbrug, Germany.
    Överby, Anna K.
    Umeå universitet.
    Johansson, Magnus
    Örebro universitet.
    The role of the poly(A) tract in the replication and virulence of tick-borne encephalitis virus2016In: Scientific Reports, ISSN 2045-2322, E-ISSN 2045-2322, no 6, article id 39265Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) is a flavivirus transmitted to humans, usually via tick bites. The virus causes tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) in humans, and symptoms range from mild flu-like symptoms to severe and long-lasting sequelae, including permanent brain damage. It has been suggested that within the population of viruses transmitted to the mammalian host, quasispecies with neurotropic properties might become dominant in the host resulting in neurological symptoms. We previously demonstrated the existence of TBEV variants with variable poly(A) tracts within a single blood-fed tick. To characterize the role of the poly(A) tract in TBEV replication and virulence, we generated infectious clones of Torö-2003 with the wild-type (A)3C(A)6 sequence (Torö-6A) or with a modified (A)3C(A)38 sequence (Torö-38A). Torö-38A replicated poorly compared to Torö-6A in cell culture, but Torö-38A was more virulent than Torö-6A in a mouse model of TBE. Next-generation sequencing of TBEV genomes after passaging in cell culture and/or mouse brain revealed mutations in specific genomic regions and the presence of quasispecies that might contribute to the observed differences in virulence. These data suggest a role for quasispecies development within the poly(A) tract as a virulence determinant for TBEV in mice.

  • 3.
    Asghar, Naveed
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology.
    Lindblom, Pontus
    Melik, Wessam
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology.
    Lindqvist, Richard
    Haglund, Mats
    Forsberg, Pia
    Overby, Anna K
    Andreassen, Ashild
    Lindgren, Per-Eric
    Johansson, Magnus
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Örebro University.
    Tick-borne encephalitis virus sequenced directly from questing and blood-feeding ticks reveals quasispecies variance.2014In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 9, no 7, article id e103264Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The increased distribution of the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) in Scandinavia highlights the importance of characterizing novel sequences within the natural foci. In this study, two TBEV strains: the Norwegian Mandal 2009 (questing nymphs pool) and the Swedish Saringe 2009 (blood-fed nymph) were sequenced and phylogenetically characterized. Interestingly, the sequence of Mandal 2009 revealed the shorter form of the TBEV genome, similar to the highly virulent Hypr strain, within the 3' non-coding region (3'NCR). A different genomic structure was found in the 3'NCR of Saringe 2009, as in-depth analysis demonstrated TBEV variants with different lengths within the poly(A) tract. This shows that TBEV quasispecies exists in nature and indicates a putative shift in the quasispecies pool when the virus switches between invertebrate and vertebrate environments. This prompted us to further sequence and analyze the 3'NCRs of additional Scandinavian TBEV strains and control strains, Hypr and Neudoerfl. Toro 2003 and Habo 2011 contained mainly a short (A)3C(A)6 poly(A) tract. A similar pattern was observed for the human TBEV isolates 1993/783 and 1991/4944; however, one clone of 1991/4944 contained an (A)3C(A)11 poly(A) sequence, demonstrating that quasispecies with longer poly(A) could be present in human isolates. Neudoerfl has previously been reported to contain a poly(A) region, but to our surprise the re-sequenced genome contained two major quasispecies variants, both lacking the poly(A) tract. We speculate that the observed differences are important factors for the understanding of virulence, spread, and control of the TBEV.

  • 4.
    Asghar, Naveed
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Örebro universitet.
    Petersson, Mona
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Geography.
    Johansson, Magnus
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Örebro univarsitet.
    Dinnétz, Patrik
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.
    Local land-scape effects on population dynamics of Ixodes ricinus2016In: Geospatial Health, ISSN 1827-1987, Vol. 11, p. 283-289, article id 487Article in journal (Refereed)
  • 5.
    Asghar, Naveed
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Örebro universitet.
    Pettersson, John H-O
    Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway / Statens veterinärmedicinska anstalt.
    Dinnétz, Patrik
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.
    Andreassen, Åshild
    Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
    Johansson, Magnus
    Örebro universitet.
    Deep sequencing analysis of tick-borne encephalitis virus from questing ticks at natural foci reveals similarities between quasispecies pools of the virus2017In: Journal of General Virology, ISSN 0022-1317, E-ISSN 1465-2099, Vol. 98, no 3, p. 413-421Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Every year, tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) causes severe central nervous system infection in 10 000 to 15 000 people in Europe and Asia. TBEV is maintained in the environment by an enzootic cycle that requires a tick vector and a vertebrate host, and the adaptation of TBEV to vertebrate and invertebrate environments is essential for TBEV persistence in nature. This adaptation is facilitated by the error-prone nature of the virus's RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which generates genetically distinct virus variants called quasispecies. TBEV shows a focal geographical distribution pattern where each focus represents a TBEV hotspot. Here, we sequenced and characterized two TBEV genomes, JP-296 and JP-554, from questing Ixodes ricinus ticks at a TBEV focus in central Sweden. Phylogenetic analysis showed geographical clustering among the newly sequenced strains and three previously sequenced Scandinavian strains, Toro-2003, Saringe-2009 and Mandal-2009, which originated from the same ancestor. Among these five Scandinavian TBEV strains, only Mandal-2009 showed a large deletion within the 3' non-coding region (NCR), similar to the highly virulent TBEV strain Hypr. Deep sequencing of JP-296, JP-554 and Mandal-2009 revealed significantly high quasispecies diversity for JP-296 and JP-554, with intact 3' NCRs, compared to the low diversity in Mandal-2009, with a truncated 3' NCR. Single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis showed that 40% of the single-nucleotide polymorphisms were common between quasispecies populations of JP-296 and JP-554, indicating a putative mechanism for how TBEV persists and is maintained within its natural foci.

  • 6.
    Wigerius, Michael
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Dalhousie University.
    Asghar, Naveed
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology.
    Melik, Wessam
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology.
    Johansson, Magnus
    Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Biology. Örebro university.
    Scribble controls NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells2013In: European Journal of Cell Biology, ISSN 0171-9335, E-ISSN 1618-1298, Vol. 92, no 6-7, p. 213-221Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Neurite outgrowth is mediated by dynamic changes of the cytoskeleton and is largely controlled by Rho GTPases and their regulators. Here, we show that the polarity protein Scribble controls PC12 cell neurite outgrowth in response to nerve growth factor. Scribble knockdown decreases neurite numbers and increases neurite length. This effect is linked to TrkA the cognate receptor for NGF as pharmacological inhibition of phosphorylated TrkA (pTrkA) reduces Scribble expression. Moreover, Scribble forms a complex with the MAPK components ERK1/2 in a growth factor dependent manner. In RNAi experiments where Scribble expression is efficiently depleted sustained ERK1/2 phosphorylation is reduced. Conversely, siRNA with intermediate Scribble silencing efficiency fails to match this effect indicating that ERK1/2 activation depends on basic Scribble protein levels. Finally, Scribble translocates to the plasma membrane in response to growth factor where it complexes with HRas and Rac1 suggesting that the phenotype activated by loss of Scribble may be a result of altered GTPase activity. Together, these results demonstrate a novel role for Scribble in neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells.

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