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      Pseudorabies Virus Infection Alters Neuronal Activity and Connectivity In Vitro

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      PLoS Pathogens

      Public Library of Science

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          Alpha-herpesviruses, including human herpes simplex virus 1 & 2, varicella zoster virus and the swine pseudorabies virus (PRV), infect the peripheral nervous system of their hosts. Symptoms of infection often include itching, numbness, or pain indicative of altered neurological function. To determine if there is an in vitro electrophysiological correlate to these characteristic in vivo symptoms, we infected cultured rat sympathetic neurons with well-characterized strains of PRV known to produce virulent or attenuated symptoms in animals. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings were made at various times after infection. By 8 hours of infection with virulent PRV, action potential (AP) firing rates increased substantially and were accompanied by hyperpolarized resting membrane potentials and spikelet-like events. Coincident with the increase in AP firing rate, adjacent neurons exhibited coupled firing events, first with AP-spikelets and later with near identical resting membrane potentials and AP firing. Small fusion pores between adjacent cell bodies formed early after infection as demonstrated by transfer of the low molecular weight dye, Lucifer Yellow. Later, larger pores formed as demonstrated by transfer of high molecular weight Texas red-dextran conjugates between infected cells. Further evidence for viral-induced fusion pores was obtained by infecting neurons with a viral mutant defective for glycoprotein B, a component of the viral membrane fusion complex. These infected neurons were essentially identical to mock infected neurons: no increased AP firing, no spikelet-like events, and no electrical or dye transfer. Infection with PRV Bartha, an attenuated circuit-tracing strain delayed, but did not eliminate the increased neuronal activity and coupling events. We suggest that formation of fusion pores between infected neurons results in electrical coupling and elevated firing rates, and that these processes may contribute to the altered neural function seen in PRV-infected animals.

          Author Summary

          Alpha-herpesviruses, including human herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, varicella zoster virus and swine pseudorabies virus, infect the peripheral nervous system of their hosts. Symptoms often include itching, numbness, or pain. Understanding of the physiological basis for these characteristic sensory and motor anomalies remains limited. To provide more insight, we examined the electrical activity of infected neurons in culture. We used pseudorabies virus (PRV) because infected animals show strain dependent, and often, dramatic symptoms (violent scratching and self mutilation). We found that infected neurons exhibited increased action potential (AP) rates. Infected neurons also became electrically coupled, proceeding from small molecular weight dye sharing and coupled activity to large molecular weight dye sharing and complete electrical synchrony. Late in infection, cell bodies fused to form syncytia. When neurons were infected with a virulent strain that could not express glycoprotein B, a member of the viral membrane fusion complex, AP rates were not increased. Changes in electrical connectivity and dye transfer were not observed, and syncytia did not occur. These results suggest that infection induced elevated activity and electrical coupling result from virally induced membrane fusion and may underlie neurological symptoms observed during infection.

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          Most cited references 72

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          Molecular biology of pseudorabies virus: impact on neurovirology and veterinary medicine.

          Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is a herpesvirus of swine, a member of the Alphaherpesvirinae subfamily, and the etiological agent of Aujeszky's disease. This review describes the contributions of PRV research to herpesvirus biology, neurobiology, and viral pathogenesis by focusing on (i) the molecular biology of PRV, (ii) model systems to study PRV pathogenesis and neurovirulence, (iii) PRV transsynaptic tracing of neuronal circuits, and (iv) veterinary aspects of pseudorabies disease. The structure of the enveloped infectious particle, the content of the viral DNA genome, and a step-by-step overview of the viral replication cycle are presented. PRV infection is initiated by binding to cellular receptors to allow penetration into the cell. After reaching the nucleus, the viral genome directs a regulated gene expression cascade that culminates with viral DNA replication and production of new virion constituents. Finally, progeny virions self-assemble and exit the host cells. Animal models and neuronal culture systems developed for the study of PRV pathogenesis and neurovirulence are discussed. PRV serves asa self-perpetuating transsynaptic tracer of neuronal circuitry, and we detail the original studies of PRV circuitry mapping, the biology underlying this application, and the development of the next generation of tracer viruses. The basic veterinary aspects of pseudorabies management and disease in swine are discussed. PRV infection progresses from acute infection of the respiratory epithelium to latent infection in the peripheral nervous system. Sporadic reactivation from latency can transmit PRV to new hosts. The successful management of PRV disease has relied on vaccination, prevention, and testing.
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            Genital herpes.

            Genital herpes is the main cause of genital ulcers worldwide; the prevalence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2 infections in the general population ranges from 10% to 60%. Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2, although HSV-1 accounts for about half of new cases in developed countries. The risk of HIV acquisition is three times higher in people with HSV-2. Neonatal herpes is an uncommon but serious complication of genital herpes. Most genital HSV-2 infections are unrecognised and undiagnosed; infected individuals, even with mild symptoms, shed HSV, and can infect sexual partners. Since clinical diagnosis is neither sensitive nor specific, virological and type-specific serological tests should be used routinely. Oral antiviral drugs for HSV infections are safe and effective and can be used both to treat episodes and to prevent recurrences. Antiviral treatment of the infected partners and condom use reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HSV-2.
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              Electrical coupling underlies high-frequency oscillations in the hippocampus in vitro.

              Coherent oscillations, in which ensembles of neurons fire in a repeated and synchronous manner, are thought to be important in higher brain functions. In the hippocampus, these discharges are categorized according to their frequency as theta (4-10Hz), gamma (20-80 Hz) and high-frequency (approximately 200 Hz) discharges, and they occur in relation to different behavioural states. The synaptic bases of theta and gamma rhythms have been extensively studied but the cellular bases for high-frequency oscillations are not understood. Here we report that high-frequency network oscillations are present in rat brain slices in vitro, occurring as a brief series of repetitive population spikes at 150-200 Hz in all hippocampal principal cell layers. Moreover, this synchronous activity is not mediated through the more commonly studied modes of chemical synaptic transmission, but is in fact a result of direct electrotonic coupling of neurons, most likely through gap-junctional connections. Thus high-frequency oscillations synchronize the activity of electrically coupled subsets of principal neurons within the well-documented synaptic network of the hippocampus.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Pathog
                PLoS Pathogens
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                October 2009
                October 2009
                30 October 2009
                : 5
                : 10
                Department of Molecular Biology and Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America
                University of Alabama at Birmingham, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: KMM DWT LWE. Performed the experiments: KMM. Analyzed the data: KMM DWT LWE. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: KMM DWT LWE. Wrote the paper: KMM DWT LWE.

                McCarthy et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 20
                Research Article
                Cell Biology

                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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