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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2001 Sep;33(9):1615-26.

Persistent expression of cytokines in the chronic stage of CVB3-induced myocarditis in NMRI mice.

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Institute of Virology at the Medical Center of the Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany.


Coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3)-induced myocarditis in NMRI mice represents a model for studying the pathogenesis of this chronic heart disease. Previously, we reported on specific cytokine patterns during the acute stage of myocarditis since cytokines are thought to play the important role in this cardiomyopathy. In this study, the expression of various cytokine mRNAs and CVB3-RNA kinetics was examined with particular emphasis on the late phase of myocarditis, by using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). In addition, replicating and persisting CVB3-RNAs were semiquantified by PCR-ELISA. Distinct histopathological changes responsible for ongoing heart disease were found and characterized by increased fibrosis, persistent cellular infiltration and degenerated necrotic myocytes. One of the most important findings of this study was that the mRNA-expression of TNF- alpha, IL-1 alpha, interferon- gamma, IL-10, IL-18, macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha (MIP-1 alpha), transforming growth factor- beta (TGF- beta) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) persisted as long as 98 days after the virus infection. The induction of IL-10 as well as IFN- gamma mRNAs was also verified by ISH and IHC at days 28 and 98 p.i. The clearly apparent persistence of the viral genomes in the myocardium of infected mice was confirmed by seminested PCR, ISH, and PCR-enzyme linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA), showing the highest amount of viral RNA in myocardial cells at day 7 after infection. These data indicate that the persistence of viral RNA is associated with persistently high levels of cytokine mRNAs which, when translated, could severely contribute to pathological changes and injury of connective tissue in the chronic stage of myocarditis.

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