Theiler's Virus-Mediated Immunopathology in the CNS and Heart: Roles of Organ-Specific Cytokine and Lymphatic Responses

Seiichi Omura, Eiichiro Kawai, Fumitaka Sato, Nicholas E. Martinez, Alireza Minagar, Mahmoud Al-Kofahi, J. Winny Yun, Urska Cvek, Marjan Trutschl, J. Steven Alexander, Ikuo Tsunoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) induces different diseases in the central nervous system (CNS) and heart, depending on the mouse strains and time course, with cytokines playing key roles for viral clearance and immune-mediated pathology (immunopathology). In SJL/J mice, TMEV infection causes chronic TMEV-induced demyelinating disease (TMEV-IDD) in the spinal cord about 1 month post-inoculation (p.i.). Unlike other immunopathology models, both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines can play dual roles in TMEV-IDD. Pro-inflammatory cytokines play beneficial roles in viral clearance while they are also detrimental in immune-mediated demyelination. Anti-inflammatory cytokines suppress not only protective anti-viral immune responses but also detrimental autoreactive immune responses. Conversely, in C3H mice, TMEV infection induces a non-CNS disease, myocarditis, with three distinctive phases: phase I, viral pathology with interferon and chemokine responses; phase II, immunopathology mediated by acquired immune responses; and phase III, cardiac fibrosis. Although the exact mechanism(s) by which a single virus, TMEV, induces these different diseases in different organs is unclear, our bioinformatics approaches, especially principal component analysis (PCA) of transcriptome data, allow us to identify the key factors contributing to organ-specific immunopathology. The PCA demonstrated that in vitro infection of a cardiomyocyte cell line reproduced the transcriptome profile of phase I in TMEV-induced myocarditis; distinct interferon/chemokine-related responses were induced in vitro in TMEV-infected cardiomyocytes, but not in infected neuronal cells. In addition, the PCA of the in vivo CNS transcriptome data showed that decreased lymphatic marker expressions were weakly associated with inflammation in TMEV infection. Here, dysfunction of lymphatic vessels is shown to potentially contribute to immunopathology by delaying the clearance of cytokines and immune cells from the inflammatory site, although this can also confine the virus at these sites, preventing virus spread via lymphatic vessels. On the other hand, in the heart, dysfunction of lymphatics was associated with reduced lymphatic muscle contractility provoked by pro-inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, TMEV infection may induce different patterns of cytokine expressions as well as lymphatic vessel dysfunction by rather different mechanisms between the CNS and heart, which might explain observed patterns of organ-specific immunopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • LYVE1
  • Picornaviridae infection
  • adhesion molecules
  • animal models
  • blood-brain barrier
  • computational analysis
  • unsupervised analysis

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