Infection of cardiomyocytes and induction of left ventricle dysfunction by neurovirulent polytropic murine retrovirus

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Viral infections of the heart are a causative factor of myocarditis as well as of sudden, unexpected deaths of children, yet the mechanisms of pathogenesis remain unclear, in part due to the relatively few animal models of virus-induced myocarditis. In the current study, we examined the ability of polytropic murine retroviruses to infect the heart and induce cardiac dysfunction. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry analysis detected virus-infected cardiomyocytes and macrophages in the heart. A significant decrease in left ventricle function, as measured by fractional shortening, was detected in mice infected with the neurovirulent retrovirus Fr98 but not in mice infected with the nonneurovirulent retrovirus Fr54. Virus infection was not associated with consistent findings of fibrosis or substantial cellular infiltrate. Fr98-induced left ventricle dysfunction was associated with a higher virus load, increased mRNA expression of the macrophage marker F4/80, increased chemokine production, and a small number of apoptotic cells in the heart.

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Journal of virology

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