Date of Award

January 2011

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

Department

Medicine

First Advisor

Anthony van den Pol

Subject Area(s)

Molecular biology

Abstract

Astrocytes are the first cells infected by murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) in primary cultures of brain. These cells play key roles in intercellular signaling and neuronal development, and they modulate synaptic activity within the nervous system. Using ratiometric fura-2 digital calcium imaging of >8,000 neurons and glia, we found that MCMV-infected astrocytes showed an increase in intracellular basal calcium levels and an enhanced response to neuroactive substances, including glutamate and ATP, and to high potassium levels. Cultured neurons with no sign of MCMV infection showed attenuated synaptic signaling after infection of the underlying astrocyte substrate, and intercellular communication between astrocytes with no sign of infection was reduced by the presence of infected glia. These bystander effects would tend to cause further deterioration of cellular communication in the brain in addition to the problems caused by the loss of directly infected cells.

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