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Arch Virol Suppl. 1994;9:31-9.

Age-dependent susceptibility to fatal encephalitis: alphavirus infection of neurons.

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Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.


Sindbis virus encephalitis in mice provides a model for studying age-dependent susceptibility to acute viral encephalitis. The AR339 strain of SV causes fatal encephalitis in newborn mice, but weanling mice recover uneventfully. Increased virulence for older mice is associated with a single amino acid change from Gln to His at position 55 of the E2 glycoprotein. Weanling mice with normal immune systems clear infectious virus from neurons through an antibody-mediated mechanism. This does not happen in newborn mice because the infected neurons die soon after they are infected. Death in immature neurons, as well as most other mammalian cells infected with Sindbis virus, occurs by induction of apoptosis. This can be prevented by cellular expression of bcl-2, an inhibitor of apoptosis, which is expressed by mature neurons in culture. We conclude that mature neurons are resistant to induction of apoptosis after infection with SV through expression of cellular inhibitors of apoptosis. This provides the opportunity for antibody to clear virus by a noncytolytic mechanism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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