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Virology. 1990 Apr;175(2):418-26.

Identification of the spinal cord as a major site of persistence during chronic infection with a murine coronavirus.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242.


After intranasal inoculation, mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) gains entry into the central nervous system (CNS) via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves. Under the appropriate conditions, some mice develop clinically apparent demyelinating encephalomyelitis several weeks later, with virus always present in the spinal cord. To determine the pathway by which virus reaches the cord, brains and spinal cords of infected, asymptomatic mice were analyzed by in situ hybridization. Viral RNA was always detected in the anterior part of the upper spinal cord. A similar analysis of mice with the recent onset of hindlimb weakness showed that viral RNA was detected in the same location. The results suggest that MHV is transported to the spinal cord via well-defined neuroanatomic pathways and that viral amplification with resultant clinical disease occurs from this site of persistence in the anterior spinal cord. This process of viral amplification may involve the generation of viral variants as has been described for MHV-infected rats. No major changes in viral RNA or protein could be detected when MHV isolated from mice with hindlimb paralysis was analyzed. The data suggest that the generation of viral variants is not important in the pathogenesis of the late onset of neurological disease induced by MHV in mice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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