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Lab Invest. 2000 Sep;80(9):1373-83.

Cytomegalovirus infection of the central nervous system stem cells from mouse embryo: a model for developmental brain disorders induced by cytomegalovirus.

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Second Department of Pathology, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Japan.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most frequent infectious cause of developmental disorders of the central nervous system (CNS) in humans. Infection of the CNS stem cells seems to be primarily responsible for the generation of the brain abnormalities. In this study, we evaluated the infectivity of murine CMV (MCMV) in epidermal growth factor (EGF)-responsive CNS stem cells prepared from fetal mouse brains, and studied the effect of infection on growth and differentiation of the stem cells. The CNS stem cells were permissive for MCMV infection, although MCMV replication was slower than in mouse embryonic fibroblasts. MCMV infection inhibited the growth and DNA replication of the stem cells. A clonogenic assay revealed that MCMV infection suppressed generation of colonies from single stem cells. When uninfected stem cells were induced to differentiate, a decrease in expression of the primitive neuroepidermal marker nestin was observed by immunocytochemistry and flow cytometry, whereas expression of neurofilament and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were induced. In virus-infected CNS stem cells, nestin expression was retained, whereas the expression of neurofilament was more severely inhibited than that of GFAP in these cells. Two-color flow cytometry showed that differentiated glial precursor cells were preferentially susceptible to MCMV infection. MCMV-infected and uninfected CNS stem cells were transplanted into the neonatal rat brains. The reduced number of infected stem cells were engulfed into the subventricular zone and expressed GFAP, but did not migrate further, in contrast to the uninfected stem cells. These results suggest that suppression of the growth of the CNS stem cells and inhibition of the neuronal differentiation by CMV infection may be primary causes of disorders of brain development in congenital CMV infection.

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