Nude (nu/nu) mice were inoculated intracranially with 10 newborn mouse 50% lethal doses of K virus and were studied over a period of 28 weeks using serological methods, virus assay and immunohistological staining for viral antigens. K virus infection of nude mice, although clinically asymptomatic, was slowly progressive despite prompt IgM and IgG antibody response. The highest titres of K virus infectivity were reached in spleens, kidneys and intestines. Vascular endothelial cells represented the major site of viral replication, as has been shown to be the case in immunologically normal mice, with extensive involvement of intestinal capillaries. In addition, however, unlike immunologically normal mice, nude mice inoculated with K virus developed multifocal infection of renal tubular epithelial cells. Nude mice did not develop histologically detectable evidence of central nervous system involvement by K virus, and K virus infection did not result in neoplasia. Infected vascular endothelial cells and renal tubular epithelial cells in animals studied at 16 and 27 weeks after inoculation were grouped in scattered clusters, suggesting local spread of infection. The present study indicates that nude mice with preserved B cell function but impaired T cell-mediated immunity are able to limit systemic dissemination of K virus but are unable to prevent local progression of infection by cell-to-cell spread. K virus is capable of altering its cellular tropism during chronic infection.


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