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Virology. 1995 Apr 20;208(2):662-71.

Mechanism of neuroinvasion of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus in the mouse.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina, School of Medicine, Chapel Hill 27599-7290, USA.


Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE) causes a biphasic disease in mice following subcutaneous inoculation in the footpad. In the initial phase, virus replicates primarily in the lymphoid tissues and induces a high titer viremia. Subsequently, the virus invades the central nervous system (CNS) from the circulation, and an encephalitis ensues. At the earliest times that VEE specific in situ hybridization signal was observed in the CNS, it was in areas of the brain involved in olfaction, leading to the hypothesis that virus may invade the brain from the circulation through the olfactory system. The results presented in this paper define the route of CNS invasion in experimental murine VEE disease initiated by subcutaneous inoculation. Virus circulating in the blood appears to seed specific areas of the peripheral nervous system during the viremic lymphoid phase of the illness. Virus replication within olfactory and dental tissues is followed by centripetal spread of virus along neural pathways. Virus enters the brain in a pattern reflecting the proximity of the peripheral invasion site to the CNS. Specifically, virus is first found in the brain within the structures of the olfactory system, followed by areas innervated by the trigeminal nerve. Virus later disseminates along fiber tracts and connected circuits within the brain, resulting in a disseminated meningoencephalitis. Surgical or chemical interruption of the olfactory system at the level of the olfactory neuroepithelium or the main olfactory bulb inhibited entry of VEE into the CNS through the olfactory nerve. However, the olfactory route is not absolutely required for CNS invasion, as virus invaded the CNS of olfactory ablated animals through the trigeminal nerve. These observations are consistent with a model of hematogenous seeding of the peripheral nervous system, followed by invasion of the CNS by direct neural spread.

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