Bundibugyo ebolavirus survival is associated with early activation of adaptive immunity and reduced myeloid-derived suppressor cell signaling

Courtney Woolsey, Viktoriya Borisevich, Krystle N. Agans, Karla A. Fenton, Robert W. Cross, Thomas W. Geisbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ebolaviruses Bundibugyo virus (BDBV) and Ebola virus (EBOV) cause fatal hemorrhagic disease in humans and nonhuman primates. While the host response to EBOV is well characterized, less is known about BDBV infection. Moreover, immune signatures that mediate natural protection against all ebolaviruses remain poorly defined. To explore these knowledge gaps, we transcriptionally profiled BDBV-infected rhesus macaques, a disease model that results in incomplete lethality. This approach enabled us to identify prognostic indicators. As expected, survival (;60%) correlated with reduced clinical pathology and circulating infectious virus, although peak viral RNA loads were not significantly different between surviving and nonsurviving macaques. Survivors had higher anti-BDBV antibody titers and transcriptionally derived cytotoxic T cell-, memory B cell-, and plasma cell-type quantities, demonstrating activation of adaptive immunity. Conversely, a poor prognosis was associated with lack of an appropriate adaptive response, sustained innate immune signaling, and higher expression of myeloid- derived suppressor cell (MDSC)-related transcripts (S100A8, S100A9, CEBPB, PTGS2, CXCR1, and LILRA3). MDSCs are potent immunosuppressors of cellular and humoral immunity, and therefore, they represent a potential therapeutic target. Circulating plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1) and tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) levels were also elevated in nonsurvivors and in survivors exhibiting severe illness, emphasizing the importance of maintaining coagulation homeostasis to control disease progression. IMPORTANCE Bundibugyo virus (BDBV) and Ebola virus (EBOV) are ebolaviruses endemic to Africa that cause severe, often fatal hemorrhagic disease. BDBV is considered a less pathogenic ebolavirus due to its reduced lethality during human outbreaks, as well as in experimentally infected nonhuman primates. The reduced mortality of BDBV in NHP models, resulting in a pool of survivors, afforded us the unique opportunity of identifying immune correlates that confer protection against ebolaviruses. In this study, we discovered that the survival of BDBV-infected nonhuman primates (NHPs) was dependent on early development of adaptive (memory) immune responses and reduced myeloidderived suppressor cell (MDSC)-related signaling. MDSCs are a heterogenous group of immune cells implicated in a number of diseases that are powerful immunosuppressors of cellular and humoral immunity. Thus, MDSCs represent a novel therapeutic target to prevent ebolavirus disease. To our knowledge, this is the first study to link increased morbidity with recruitment of these potent immunosuppressive cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01517-21
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Coagulation
  • Ebola virus
  • Filovirus
  • Immunology
  • Myeloid-derived suppressor cell
  • Nonhuman primate
  • Pathogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bundibugyo ebolavirus survival is associated with early activation of adaptive immunity and reduced myeloid-derived suppressor cell signaling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this