REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202107.0320.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Biochemistry Keywords: Cell-cell fusion; henipavirus; pathogenesis; paramyxovirus; syncytium; within-host dynamics
Online: 14 July 2021 (11:09:08 CEST)
Syncytium formation, i.e., cell-cell fusion resulting in the formation of multinucleated cells, is a hallmark of infection by paramyxoviruses and other important viruses. This natural mechanism has historically been a diagnostic marker for paramyxovirus infection in vivo and is now widely studied for virus-induced membrane fusion in vitro. However, the role of syncytium formation in within-host dissemination and pathogenicity of viruses remains poorly understood. The diversity of henipaviruses and their wide host range and tissue tropism make them particularly appropriate models to characterize the drivers of syncytium formation and its implications for virus fitness and pathogenicity. Based on the henipavirus literature, we summarized current knowledge on the mechanisms driving syncytium formation, mostly acquired from in vitro studies, and on the in vivo distribution of syncytia. While these data suggest that syncytium formation widely occurs across henipaviruses, hosts and tissues, we identified important data gaps that undermined our understanding of the role of syncytium formation in virus pathogenesis. Based on these observations, we propose solutions of varying complexity to fill these data gaps, from better practices in data archiving and publication for in vivo studies, to experimental approaches in vitro.