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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Journal of Virology Volume 82, Issue 11, June 2008, Pages 5519-5526. The published version is available at DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01488-07. Copyright © American Society of Microbiology.


Some strains of mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) can induce chronic inflammatory demyelination in mice that mimics certain pathological features of multiple sclerosis. We have examined neural cell tropism of demyelinating and nondemyelinating strains of MHV in order to determine whether central nervous system (CNS) cell tropism plays a role in demyelination. Previous studies demonstrated that recombinant MHV strains, isogenic other than for the spike gene, differ in the extent of neurovirulence and the ability to induce demyelination. Here we demonstrate that these strains also differ in their abilities to infect a particular cell type(s) in the brain. Furthermore, there is a correlation between the differential localization of viral antigen in spinal cord gray matter and that in white matter during acute infection and the ability to induce demyelination later on. Viral antigen from demyelinating strains is detected initially in both gray and white matter, with subsequent localization to white matter of the spinal cord, whereas viral antigen localization of nondemyelinating strains is restricted mainly to gray matter. This observation suggests that the localization of viral antigen to white matter during the acute stage of infection is essential for the induction of chronic demyelination. Overall, these observations suggest that isogenic demyelinating and nondemyelinating strains of MHV, differing in the spike protein expressed, infect neurons and glial cells in different proportions and that differential tropism to a particular CNS cell type may play a significant role in mediating the onset and mechanisms of demyelination.

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