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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Jun 5;356(3):457-80.

Specificity of rabies virus as a transneuronal tracer of motor networks: transfer from hypoglossal motoneurons to connected second-order and higher order central nervous system cell groups.

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Laboratoire de Génétique des Virus, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S.), Gif-Sur-Yvette, France.


The specificity of transneuronal transfer of rabies virus [challenge virus standard (CVS) strain] was evaluated in a well-characterized neuronal network, i.e., retrograde infection of hypoglossal motoneurons and transneuronal transfer to connected (second-order) brainstem neurons. The distribution of the virus in the central nervous system was studied immunohistochemically at sequential intervals after unilateral inoculation into the hypoglossal nerve. The extent of transneuronal transfer of rabies virus was strictly time dependent and was distinguished in five stages. At 1 day postinoculation, labelling involved only hypoglossal motoneurons (stage 1). Retrograde transneuronal transfer occurred from 2.0-2.5 days postinoculation (stage 2). In stages 2-4, different groups of second-order neurons were labelled sequentially, depending on the strength of their input to the hypoglossal nucleus. In stages 4 and 5, labelling extended to several cortical and subcortical cell groups, which can be regarded as higher order because they are known to control tongue movements and/or to provide input to hypoglossal-projecting cell groups. The pattern of transneuronal transfer of rabies virus resembles that of alpha-herpesviruses with regard to the nonsynchronous labelling of different groups of second-order neurons and the transfer to higher order neurons. In striking contrast to alpha-herpesviruses, the transneuronal transfer of rabies is not accompanied by neuronal degeneration. Moreover, local spread of rabies from infected neurons and axons to adjoining glial cells, neurons, or fibers of passage does not occur. The results show that rabies virus is a very efficient transneuronal tracer. Results also provide a new insight into the organization of cortical and subcortical higher order neurons that mediate descending control of tongue movements indirectly via hypoglossal-projecting neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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