Neurotropism of Human Coronavirus 229E
The 299E prototype strain of human coronavirus (HCV-229E) has so far been mainly associated with infections of the respiratory tract. In the present study, we show evidence for infection of the central nervous system (CNS) by HCV-229E, both in vitro and in vivo.
Various human cell lines of CNS origin were tested for their susceptibility to infection by HCV-229E. Production of viral antigens was monitored by indirect immunofluorescence with monoclonal antibodies and infectious progeny virions by plaque assay on the L132 human embryonic lung cell line. The SK-N-SH neuroblastoma and H4 neuroglioma cell lines were highly susceptible to infection. The U-87 MG and U-373 MG astrocytoma cell lines were also infectable by HCV-229E. We could also demonstrate infection of the MO3.13 cell line, which was established by fusion of human oligodendrocytes with a thioguanineresistant mutant of the TE671 (RD) human rhabdomyosarcoma cell line. An apparently more extensive infection of the MO3.13 cells, when compared to the parental cells, supports the notion that human oligodendrocytes are differentially susceptible to infection by this virus.
We also tested for HCV-229E gene expression in pathological brain specimens. For that purpose, we developed a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay to amplify a portion of the mRNA encoding the viral nucleocapsid protein. Using stringent laboratory conditions, viral RNA was detectable in brain tissue of 4 of 11 multiple sclerosis patients and none of 6 neurological and 5 normal controls.
These results strongly suggest neurotropism on the part of HCV-229E and emphasize the importance of further studies on the possible involvement of human coronaviruses in neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
KeywordsMultiple Sclerosis Central Nervous System Tissue Astrocytoma Cell Line Glial Cell Line Human Coronaviruses
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