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Am J Pathol. 2007 Apr;170(4):1291-304.

Effects of JC virus infection on anti-apoptotic protein survivin in progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Neuropathology Core, Temple University School of Medicine, 1900 North 12th St., Suite 240, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.


Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a fatal demyelinating disease of the central nervous system resulting from the productive infection of oligodendrocytes by the opportunistic polyomavirus JC virus (JCV). Apoptosis is a host defense mechanism to dispose of damaged cells; however, certain viruses have the ability to deregulate apoptotic pathways to complete their life cycles. One such pathway involves survivin, a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis family, which is abundantly expressed during development in proliferating tissues but should be absent in normal, terminally differentiated cells. Immunohistochemistry performed in 20 cases of PML revealed the presence of survivin in JCV-infected oligodendrocytes and bizarre astrocytes within demyelinated plaques. Survivin up-regulation was also found in oligodendroglial and astrocytic cultures infected with JCV. Cell cycle analysis and DNA laddering demonstrated a significantly lower number of cells undergoing apoptosis on JCV infection compared with noninfected cultures; small interfering RNA inhibition of survivin resulted in a dramatic increase in apoptotic cells in JCV-infected cultures. This is the first report describing the activation of survivin by JCV infection in vitro and in PML clinical cases. These observations provide new insights into the anti-apoptotic mechanisms used by JCV to complete its lytic cycle and may suggest new therapeutic targets for PML.

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