We have previously described the capacity of neurites extending from cultured rat sensory dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons to transport rabies virus through axoplasm in the retrograde direction. Here we report the infection of cultured neurons derived from the DRG and the subsequent anterograde transport of rabies virus from the infected cell somas through the extending neurites to its release into the culture supernatant. Viral transport was monitored by titration of the virus yield in the external compartment. Both early and late transport mechanisms of rabies virions were identified. The first one occurred a few hours post-infection and was undetectable 6 h later, before the initiation of viral replication. The velocity of this first wave of infective virions was in the range of 100 to 400 mm/day. The early viral transport was probably the result of a direct translocation of infective virions from the somatic site of entry to the neuritic extensions and subsequent release into the culture medium without replication in the cellular perikaryon. The second virus transport peak was detected 48 h post-infection. In this case, the virions detected in the neuritic compartment were presumably the progeny of the inoculated virus which had replicated in the perikaryon before the viral transport occurs. Using a four-compartment culture device we were able to demonstrate, simultaneously, retrograde and anterograde transport of the virus. The presence of antirabies serum in contact with the exposed neurites did not inhibit either the retrograde or the anterograde transport mechanisms. The viral release from the neuritic extensions after the fast anterograde transport was evaluated to be in the range of 150 to 300 infectious virions per bundle of neurites per day.


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