Restricted expression of Borna disease virus glycoprotein in brains of experimentally infected Lewis rats

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Borna disease virus (BDV) induces a persistent infection in the central nervous system (CNS) accompanied by a non-purulent meningoencephalitis. BDV-infection of Lewis rats provides an important model to investigate basic principles of neurotropism, viral persistence and resulting dysfunctions. To date, the in vivo strategies of BDV to persist in the CNS are not fully understood. Viral glycoproteins are main targets of the antiviral defence implicating a controlled expression in case of persistent infections. Therefore, we analysed the expression profiles of the BDV-glycoprotein (BDV-GP) and corresponding BDV-intron II RNA in experimentally infected rat brains, focusing on their spatio-temporal occurrence, regional, cellular and intracellular locations.


This was carried out by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. The expression pattern of the most abundantly expressed BDV-nucleoprotein (BDV-N) served as a reference.


BDV-N mRNA was detected preferentially in the cytoplasm of neurones, whereas BDV-intron II mRNA was found predominantly in the nucleus of brain cells. The genomic RNA was restricted to the nucleus. Expression of BDV-GP was significantly lower than BDV-N expression and mainly limited to cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and thalamus. BDV-GP was restricted to larger neurones; BDV-N occurred also in astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells.


The expression profiles of BDV-GP, BDV-N and their mRNAs are significantly different, indicating that BDV-GP expression is regulated in vivo. This might be achieved by restricted nuclear export and/or maturation of BDV-intron II mRNA or limited translation as a viral mechanism to escape from the immune response and enable persistence in the CNS.

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