Molecular mechanisms of Ebola virus pathogenesis: Focus on cell death

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Ebola virus (EBOV) belongs to the Filoviridae family and is responsible for a severe disease characterized by the sudden onset of fever and malaise accompanied by other non-specific signs and symptoms; in 30-50% of cases hemorrhagic symptoms are present. Multiorgan dysfunction occurs in severe forms with a mortality up to 90%. The EBOV first attacks macrophages and dendritic immune cells. The innate immune reaction is characterized by a cytokine storm, with secretion of numerous pro-inflammatory cytokines, which induces a huge number of contradictory signals and hurts the immune cells, as well as other tissues. Other highly pathogenic viruses also trigger cytokine storms, but Filoviruses are thought to be particularly lethal because they affect a wide array of tissues. In addition to the immune system, EBOV attacks the spleen and kidneys, where it kills cells that help the body to regulate its fluid and chemical balance and that make proteins that help the blood to clot. In addition, EBOV causes liver, lungs and kidneys to shut down their functions and the blood vessels to leak fluid into surrounding tissues. In this review, we analyze the molecular mechanisms at the basis of Ebola pathogenesis with a particular focus on the cell death pathways induced by the virus. We also discuss how the treatment of the infection can benefit from the recent experience of blocking/modulating cell death in human degenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1250-1259
Number of pages10
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - May 29 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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