The cellular entry of viruses represents a critical area of study, not only for viral tropism, but also because viral entry dictates the nature of the immune response elicited upon infection. Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC), caused by viruses within human adenovirus species D (HAdV-D), is a severe, ocular surface infection associated with corneal inflammation. Clathrin-mediated endocytosis has previously been shown to play a critical role in entry of other HAdV species into many host cell types. However, HAdV-D endocytosis into corneal cells has not been extensively studied. Herein, we show an essential role for cholesterol rich, lipid raft microdomains and caveolin-1, in the entry of HAdV-D37 into primary human corneal fibroblasts. Cholesterol depletion using methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD) profoundly reduced viral infection. When replenished with soluble cholesterol, the effect of MβCD was reversed, allowing productive viral infection. HAdV-D37 DNA was identified in caveolin-1 rich endosomal fractions after infection. Src kinase activity was also increased in caveolin-1 rich endosomal fractions after infection, and Src phosphorylation and CXCL1 induction were both decreased in caveolin-1-/- mice corneas compared to wild type mice. siRNA knock down of caveolin-1 in corneal cells reduced chemokine induction upon viral infection, and caveolin-1-/- mouse corneas showed reduced cellular entry of HAdV-D37. As a control, HAdV-C2, a non-corneal pathogen, appeared to utilize the caveolar pathway for entry into A549 cells, but failed to infect corneal cells entirely, indicating virus and cell specific tropism. Immuno-electron microscopy confirmed the presence of caveolin-1 in HAdV-D37-containing vesicles during the earliest stages of viral entry. Collectively, these experiments indicate for the first time that HAdV-D37 uses a lipid raft mediated caveolin-1 associated pathway for entry into corneal cells, and connects the processes of viral entry with downstream proinflammatory cell signaling.
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