, Volume 109, Issue 5, pp 475-482
Date: 10 Mar 2005

Cytomegalovirus infection inhibits the expression of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors in the developing mouse hippocampus and primary neuronal cultures

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Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most significant infectious cause of developmental brain disorders in humans. The infection occasionally persists and causes neurological disorders. The N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) subtype of glutamate receptors is essential for the development and plasticity of synapses, but also is involved in neuronal excitotoxicity during viral infection. Here we investigated the effects of murine CMV (MCMV) infection on the expression of NMDA receptors in the hippocampal neurons of neonatal mice and primary neuronal cultures. Viral antigen was mostly found in hippocampal pyramidal neurons from the CA1 to CA3. Image analysis of immunohistochemistry demonstrated that the expression of NMDA receptor subunit 1 (NMDA-R1) protein in CA1 neurons of MCMV-infected brain was reduced to 40% of that in uninfected brain. The signal of in situ hybridization for NMDA-R1 mRNA was also decreased in CA1 neurons of MCMV-infected brain. In primary neuronal cultures, reduction of NMDA-R1 expression in MCMV-infected neurons was also detected by immunocytochemistry and Western blotting. These results suggest that reduction of NMDA receptor expression by MCMV infection may cause a decrease in the susceptibility of the neurons to excitotoxic cell death, and may be related to the establishment of viral persistence and functional disturbances in MCMV-infected neurons.