The potential role(s) of cytokines in the reduction of infectious virus and persistent viral infection in the central nervous system was examined by determining the kinetics of cytokine mRNA expression following infection with the neurotropic JHM strain of mouse hepatitis virus. Mice were infected with an antibody escape variant which produces a nonlethal encephalomyelitis and compared to a clonal virus population which produces a fulminant fatal encephalomyelitis. Infection with both viruses induced the accumulation of mRNAs associated with Th1- and Th2-type cytokines, including IFN-γ, IL-4 and IL-10 Peak mRNA accumulations were coincident with the clearance of virus and there was no obvious differences between lethally and nonlethally infected mice. TNF-α mRNA was induced more rapidly in lethally infected mice compared to mice undergoing a nonfatal encephalomyelitis. Rapid transient increases in the mRNAs encoding IL-12, iNOS, IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-6 occurred following infection. Nonlethal infections were associated with increased IL-12, IL- 1β, and earlier expression of IL-6, while lethal infections were associated with increased INOS and IL-α mRNA. These data suggest a rapid but differential response within the central nervous system cells to infection by different JHMV variants. However, neither the accumulation nor kinetics of induction provide evidence to distinguish lethal infections from nonlethal infections leading to a persistent infection. Accumulation of both Th1 and Th2 cytokines in the central nervous system of JHMV-infected mice is consistent with the participation of both cytokines and cell immune effectors during resolution of acute viral-induced encephalomyelitis.
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