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Abstract

The human polyomavirus, JC virus (JCV), provides an excellent model system to investigate the reciprocal interaction of the immune and nervous systems. Infection with JCV occurs during childhood and the virus remains in the latent state with no apparent clinical symptoms. However, under immunosuppressed conditions, the virus enters the lytic cycle and upon cytolytic destruction of glial cells, causes the fatal demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS), named progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). In this short review, we discuss the molecular pathogenesis of PML by highlighting the role of the immune system in modulating JCV gene activation and replication, and the latency/reactivation of this virus upon immunosuppression. Further, due to the higher incidence of PML among AIDS patients, we further elaborate on the cross-talk between JCV and HIV-1 by direct and indirect pathways that lead to enhanced expression of the JCV genome. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.