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J Virol. 2011 Jul;85(14):7177-85. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00009-11. Epub 2011 May 11.

Apoptotic and antiapoptotic activity of L protein of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus.

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  • 1Department of Neurology/MC2030, The University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Cellular apoptosis induced by viral genes can play a critical role in determining virulence as well as viral persistence. This form of cell death has been of interest with respect to Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) because the GDVII strain and members of the GDVII subgroup are highly neurovirulent, while the DA strain and members of the TO subgroup induce a chronic progressive inflammatory demyelination with persistence of the virus in the central nervous system. The TMEV L protein has been identified as important in the pathogenesis of Theiler's virus-induced demyelinating disease (TMEV-IDD). We now show that DA L is apoptotic following transfection of L expression constructs or following DA virus infection of HeLa cells; the apoptotic activity depends on the presence of the serine/threonine domain of L, especially a serine at amino acid 57. In contrast, GDVII L has little apoptotic activity following transfection of L expression constructs in HeLa cells and is antiapoptotic following GDVII infection of HeLa cells. Of note, both DA and GDVII L cleave caspase-3 in BHK-21 cells, although neither implements the full apoptotic machinery in this cell type as manifested by the induction of terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining. The differences in apoptotic activities of DA and GDVII L in varied cell types may play an important role in TMEV subgroup-specific disease phenotypes.

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