Natural history of restricted synthesis and expression of measles virus genes in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

A. T. Haase, D. Gantz, B. Eble, D. Walker, L. Stowring, P. Ventura, H. Blum, S. Wietgrefe, M. Zupancic, W. Tourtellotte

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45 Scopus citations


Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a slow infection caused by measles virus in which several years separate recovery from typical acute measles and the development of a slowly progressive neurological disease. We have investigated replication of measles virus in brain tissue obtained after the onset of neurological disease and in the terminal phase. With a hybridization tomographic technique that combines in situ hybridization with macroradioautographic screening of large areas of tissue, we analyzed the spatial and temporal distribution of virus genes in vivo, using region- and strand-specific probes for the nucleocapsid and matrix genes. We show that early in the course of SSPE there is a global repression in the synthesis and expression of the genome. In the final stage of SSPE most infected cells still have depressed levels of plus- and minus-strand viral RNA and contain nucleocapsid protein but lack matrix protein. These findings provide further evidence for a unified view of slow infections of the nervous system, where the general constraints on virus gene expression provide an explanation for persistence of virus in the face of the host's immune response, and the slow evolution of pathological change. In the final phases of SSPE the more specific block in virus replication accounts for the cell-associated state of the virus and the difficulty in virus isolation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3020-3024
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes


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