Immunization with nonstructural proteins promotes functional recovery of alphavirus-infected neurons

Mark D. Gorrell, Julie A. Lemm, Charles M. Rice, Diane E. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The encephalitic alphaviruses are useful models for understanding virus- neuron interactions. A neurovirulent strain of Sindbis virus (NSV) causes fatal paralysis in mice by infecting motor neurons and inducing apoptosis of these nonrenewable cells. Antibodies to the surface glycoproteins suppress virus replication, but other recovery-promoting components of the immune response have not been recognized. We assessed the effect on the outcome of NSV-induced encephalomyelitis of immunization of mice with nonstructura) proteins (nsPs) by using recombinant vaccinia viruses. Mice immunized with vaccinia virus expressing nsPs and challenged with NSV initially developed paralysis similar to unimmunized mice but then recovered neurologic function. Mice preimmunized with vaccinia virus expressing structural proteins were completely protected from paralysis. Mice immunized with vaccinia virus alone showed paralysis with little evidence of recovery. Vaccinia virus expressing only nsP2 was as effective as vaccinia virus expressing all the nsPs. Protection provided by immunity to nsPs was not associated with a reduction in virus replication or with improved antibody responses to structural proteins. Protection could not be passively transferred with nsP immune serum. The depletion of T cells at the time of NSV infection decreased protection. The data show that antiviral immune responses can improve the ability of neurons to survive infection and to recover function without altering virus replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3415-3419
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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