The Daniels strain of Theiler's virus causes a persistent infection of the white matter of spinal cord of susceptible mice, with chronic inflammation and primary demyelination. Inbred 129Sv mice are resistant to this infection; they present with mild encephalomyelitis and clear the infection within a matter of days. A very different outcome was observed with inbred 129Sv mice whose receptors for interferon alpha/beta or interferon gamma had been inactivated by homologous recombination. The former presented severe encephalomyelitis with acute infection of neurons, particularly in brain and hippocampus, and extensive infection with necrosis of the choroid plexus. Most animals died of this acute disease. The latter, presented the same early encephalomyelitis as the control 129Sv mice. However, they remained persistently infected and developed a very severe late infection of the white matter with extensive primary demyelination. This late disease looked like an exacerbated form of the chronic demyelinating disease observed in susceptible inbred mice such as the SJL/J or FVB strains. Our results show that the two interferon systems play nonredundant roles in the resistance of the 129Sv mouse to the infection by Theiler's virus. They also lend support to the notion that the Ifg gene is involved in the resistance/susceptibility of inbred strains of mice to persistent infection by this picornavirus.

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