Murine coronavirus induces an acute and long-lasting disease of the retina

S. G. Robbins, C. P. Hamel, B. Detrick, J. J. Hooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The ability of the coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus, strain JHM, to grow in the retinas of BALB/c mice was examined. Inoculation into the vitreous chamber produced significant changes. Immunoperoxidase staining of frozen sections with either monoclonal or polyclonal antiserum revealed coronaviral antigens in the iris, ciliary body, and a few ganglion cells on day 1. The retinal pigment epithelial cells began expressing viral antigen on day 2 and large amounts of antigen were present in these cells on day 3. Viral antigens were detected in all layers of the neural retina by day 6 and were absent after day 7. Infectious virus was recovered from retinas harvested at 5 days. The drop in viral antigen expression was correlated with an elevation in virus-specific antibody; the latter began to rise on day 5 and plateaued after day 8. In hematoxylin and eosin-or periodic acid -Schiff-stained sections of virus-inoculated left eyes, but not mock-inoculated right eyes, lesions spanning all layers of the neural retina were detected by day 3. Subsequently, abnormalities in retinal pigment epithelial cells appeared, sometimes around the entire circumference of the retina. Significant retinal abnormalities, notably photoreceptor degeneration, persisted through 6 weeks. These results demonstrate that coronaviruses can cause acute infection of the posterior pole of the eye, resulting in only a mild inflammatory response and long-lasting disease. This murine disease may be considered a model for degenerative diseases of the pigment epithelium and photoreceptors in man.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-426
Number of pages10
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • mouse hepatitis virus
  • photoreceptors
  • retinal disease
  • retinal pigment epithelium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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