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J Virol. 2010 Nov;84(21):11076-88. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01022-10. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

Neuropeptide Y has a protective role during murine retrovirus-induced neurological disease.

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  • 1Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 903 S. 4th St., Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Viral infections in the central nervous system (CNS) can lead to neurological disease either directly by infection of neurons or indirectly through activation of glial cells and production of neurotoxic molecules. Understanding the effects of virus-mediated insults on neuronal responses and neurotrophic support is important in elucidating the underlying mechanisms of viral diseases of the CNS. In the current study, we examined the expression of neurotrophin- and neurotransmitter-related genes during infection of mice with neurovirulent polytropic retrovirus. In this model, virus-induced neuropathogenesis is indirect, as the virus predominantly infects macrophages and microglia and does not productively infect neurons or astrocytes. Virus infection is associated with glial cell activation and the production of proinflammatory cytokines in the CNS. In the current study, we identified increased expression of neuropeptide Y (NPY), a pleiotropic growth factor which can regulate both immune cells and neuronal cells, as a correlate with neurovirulent virus infection. Increased levels of Npy mRNA were consistently associated with neurological disease in multiple strains of mice and were induced only by neurovirulent, not avirulent, virus infection. NPY protein expression was primarily detected in neurons near areas of virus-infected cells. Interestingly, mice deficient in NPY developed neurological disease at a faster rate than wild-type mice, indicating a protective role for NPY. Analysis of NPY-deficient mice indicated that NPY may have multiple mechanisms by which it influences virus-induced neurological disease, including regulating the entry of virus-infected cells into the CNS.

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