Visna-Maedi virus (VMV), an ungulate lentivirus, causes a natural infection in sheep. In vitro, VMV infection and replication lead to strong cytopathic effects with subsequent death of host cells. We investigated, in vitro, the relative contribution of apoptosis or programmed cell death (PCD) to cell killing during acute infection with VMV, by employing diverse strategies to detect its common end-stage alterations. We demonstrated that VMV-infection in sheep choroid plexus cells (SCPC), is associated with apoptosis, characterized by morphological changes such as condensation of chromatin and the appearence of apoptotic bodies. DNA fragmentation was documented by TUNEL assay. Although the mechanism by which VMV activates this cell suicide program is not known, we examined the activation of caspases, the family of death-inducing proteases that resulted in cleavage of several cellular substrates. To study the role of caspases in VMV-induced apoptosis, we focused on several protease targets: procaspase-3 and procaspase-1. During VMV-infection, SCPC display active caspase-3 and no caspase-1 activity. In conclusion, our results suggest that VMV infection, in vitro, induces cell death of SCPC by a mechanism that can be characterized by many of the properties most closely associated with apoptotic cell death.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: May 1, 2002
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