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Caveats in Transneuronal Tracing with Unmodified Rabies Virus: An Evaluation of Aberrant Results Using a Nearly Perfect Tracing Technique

Abstract : Apart from the genetically engineered, modified, strains of rabies virus (RABV), unmodified 'fixed' virus strains of RABV, such as the 'French' subtype of CVS11, are used to examine synaptically connected networks in the brain. This technique has been shown to have all the prerequisite characteristics for ideal tracing as it does not metabolically affect infected neurons within the time span of the experiment, it is transferred transneuronally in one direction only and to all types of neurons presynaptic to the infected neuron, number of transneuronal steps can be precisely controlled by survival time and it is easily detectable with a sensitive technique. Here, using the 'French' CVS 11 subtype of RABV in Wistar rats, we show that some of these characteristics may not be as perfect as previously indicated. Using injection of RABV in hind limb muscles, we show that RABV-infected spinal motoneurons may already show lysis 1 or 2 days after infection. Using longer survival times we were able to establish that Purkinje cells may succumb approximately 3 days after infection. In addition, some neurons seem to resist infection, as we noted that the number of RABV-infected inferior olivary neurons did not progress in the same rate as other infected neurons. Furthermore, in our hands, we noted that infection of Purkinje cells did not result in expected transneuronal labeling of cell types that are presynaptic to Purkinje cells such as molecular layer interneurons and granule cells. However, these cell types were readily infected when RABV was injected directly in the cerebellar cortex. Conversely, neurons in the cerebellar nuclei that project to the inferior olive did not take up RABV when this was injected in the inferior olive, whereas these cells could be infected with RABV via a transneuronal route. These results suggest that viral entry from the extracellular space depends on other factors or mechanisms than those used for retrograde transneuronal transfer. We conclude that transneuronal tracing with RABV may result in unexpected results, as not all properties of RABV seem to be ubiquitously valid.
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Tom Ruigrok, Sven van Touw, Patrice Coulon. Caveats in Transneuronal Tracing with Unmodified Rabies Virus: An Evaluation of Aberrant Results Using a Nearly Perfect Tracing Technique. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, Frontiers, 2016, 10, pp.46. ⟨10.3389/fncir.2016.00046⟩. ⟨hal-01461980⟩

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