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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1998 Oct;22(6):721-3.

A review of alphavirus replication in neurons.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Alphaviruses are important causes of mosquito-borne viral encephalitis. The prototype alphavirus, Sindbis virus, causes encephalomyelitis in mice. The primary target cell for nervous system infection is the neuron. Thus, Sindbis virus infection of mice provides a model system for studying virus-neuron interactions. The outcome of infection is dependent on the maturity of the targeted neurons and on the strain of Sindbis virus used for infection. Most Sindbis virus strains can induce programmed cell death or apoptosis in cultured lines of mammalian cells and in immature postmitotic neurons both in vitro and in vivo. As neurons mature they become increasingly resistant to Sindbis virus-induced apoptosis presumably due to increased expression with differentiation of cellular antiapoptotic proteins. Therefore, in the absence of an effective immune response, these relatively avirulent strains of Sindbis virus establish persistent nonfatal infection in mature neurons. More virulent strains of Sindbis virus can overcome this intrinsic resistance of mature neurons to apoptosis and cause neuronal death. Amino acid changes in the virion glycoproteins are the main determinants of neurovirulence and knowledge of the effects of specific changes allows the investigator to design Sindbis viruses of specified neurovirulence for animals of different ages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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