Pathogenesis of ovine lentiviral encephalitis: Derivation of a neurovirulent strain by in vivo passage

L. E. Craig, D. Sheffer, A. L. Meyer, D. Hauer, F. Lechner, E. Peterhans, R. J. Adams, J. E. Clements, O. Narayan, M. C. Zink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The lentiviruses of sheep replicate almost exclusively in macrophages and cause chronic interstitial pneumonia, arthritis, and mastitis, but only rarely encephalitis. This study was undertaken to determine whether a non-neurovirulent field strain of ovine lentivirus isolated from joint fluid that replicated productively in lung and joint macrophages could be adapted to enter and replicate in the brain and cause encephalitis. The field isolate was passed seven times sequentially by intracerebral inoculation of sheep. The neuroadapted strain of virus caused severe encephalitis typical of visna in four of four sheep inoculated intracerebrally. The virus replicated to high titers in the brains of these animals and in cultured microglia. The inflammatory response in the brain was characterized by intense infiltrates of macrophages and CD8+ and CD4+ T cells. Many of the perivascular macrophages demonstrated TNF-α expression and there was upregulation of MHC Class II antigen expression on both inflammatory cells and endothelium. Inoculation of this neuroadapted virus into the bone marrow of three animals resulted in persistent infection and cell-associated viremia, but not encephalitis. Virus was not detected in brains from these animals, indicating that the virus was not neuroinvasive. These data suggest that neuroinvasiveness and neurovirulence are separate pathogenic determinants, both of which are required for the development of encephalitis during natural infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-427
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurovirology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997


  • Animal
  • Brain
  • Retrovirus
  • Sheep
  • Visna

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Virology


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