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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2010 Sep;8(9):645-55. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2395.

A hitchhiker's guide to the nervous system: the complex journey of viruses and toxins.

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Institut de Génétique Moléculaire de Montpellier, CNRS UMR 5535, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


To reach the central nervous system (CNS), pathogens have to circumvent the wall of tightly sealed endothelial cells that compose the blood-brain barrier. Neuronal projections that connect to peripheral cells and organs are the Achilles heels in CNS isolation. Some viruses and bacterial toxins interact with membrane receptors that are present at nerve terminals to enter the axoplasm. Pathogens can then be mistaken for cargo and recruit trafficking components, allowing them to undergo long-range axonal transport to neuronal cell bodies. In this Review, we highlight the strategies used by pathogens to exploit axonal transport during CNS invasion.

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