Infection of the central nervous system by Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TM EV), a picornavirus, produces chronic demyelinating disease in susceptible mice. In this immunoelectron microscopic study of TMEV infection of neonatal mouse brain cells in culture, TMEV antigen was found on the surfaces of infected oligodendrocytes and astrocytes by labeling with hyperimmune serum from TMEV-infected mice or with rabbit antiserum to purified inactivated DA strain TMEV. Brain-derived macrophages had no TMEV-specific antigen on their surfaces and were not able to maintain productive TMEV infection, even though TMEV antigen was present in the cytoplasm. The presence of TMEV antigens on the surfaces of oligodendrocytes (myelin-producing cells) was unexpected because picornaviruses are nonenveloped viruses and do not bud from cell surfaces. The finding is consistent with the hypothesis that demyelination follows damage of infected oligodendrocytes by immune cells or immunoglobulins that recognize surface virus antigen.
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