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J Virol. 2008 Mar;82(6):3099-108. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02479-07. Epub 2008 Jan 9.

Antiviral CD8 T cells recognize borna disease virus antigen transgenically expressed in either neurons or astrocytes.

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Department of Virology, University of Freiburg, Hermann Herder Strasse 11, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.


Borna disease virus (BDV) can persistently infect the central nervous system (CNS) of mice. The infection remains nonsymptomatic as long as antiviral CD8 T cells do not infiltrate the infected brain. BDV mainly infects neurons which reportedly carry few, if any, major histocompatibility complex class I molecules on the surface. Therefore, it remains unclear whether T cells can recognize replicating virus in these cells or whether cross-presentation of viral antigen by other cell types is important for immune recognition of BDV. To distinguish between these possibilities, we used two lines of transgenic mice that strongly express the N protein of BDV in either neurons (Neuro-N) or astrocytes (Astro-N). Since these animals are tolerant to the neo-self-antigen, we adoptively transferred T cells with specificity for BDV N. In nontransgenic mice persistently infected with BDV, the transferred cells accumulated in the brain parenchyma along with immune cells of host origin and efficiently induced neurological disease. Neurological disease was also observed if antiviral T cells were injected into the brains of Astro-N or Neuro-N but not nontransgenic control mice. Our results demonstrate that CD8 T cells can recognize foreign antigen on neurons and astrocytes even in the absence of infection or inflammation, indicating that these CNS cell types are playing an active role in immune recognition of viruses.

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