Non-invasive imaging of mouse hepatitis coronavirus infection reveals determinants of viral replication and spread in vivo

Authors

  • Matthijs Raaben,

    1. Virology Division, Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
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  • Henk-Jan Prins,

    1. Department of Immunology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Wilhelmina Children's Hospital, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
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  • Anton C. Martens,

    1. Department of Immunology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Wilhelmina Children's Hospital, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
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  • Peter J. M. Rottier,

    1. Virology Division, Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
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  • Cornelis A. M. De Haan

    Corresponding author
    1. Virology Division, Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
      *E-mail c.a.m.dehaan@uu.nl; Tel. (+31) 30 2534195; Fax (+31) 30 2536723.
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*E-mail c.a.m.dehaan@uu.nl; Tel. (+31) 30 2534195; Fax (+31) 30 2536723.

Summary

Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) is a powerful new method to study virus dissemination in the live animal. Here we used this method to monitor the spatial and temporal progression of mouse hepatitis coronavirus (MHV) infection in mice using luciferase-expressing viruses. Upon intranasal inoculation, virus replication could initially be observed in the nasal cavity and the cervical lymph nodes, after which the infection spread to the brain and frequently to the eyes. The kinetics of virus spread to and clearance from the brain appeared to depend on the inoculation dose. After intraperitoneal inoculation, virus replication was predominantly observed in the liver and occasionally in the intestines, but interestingly also in the tail and paws. BLI thus elucidated new anatomic locations of virus replication. Furthermore, MHV dissemination was shown to be critically depended on the viral spike protein, but also on the mouse strain used. Widespread dissemination was observed in mice lacking a functional type I interferon response. The importance of the type I interferon system in limiting viral spread was also demonstrated by the administration of type I interferons to mice. Our results provide new insights in coronavirus pathogenesis and demonstrate the potential of BLI to study coronavirus–host interactions in vivo.

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