By the application of hybridization to thin sections of paraffin-embedded tissues we have been able to determine with high resolution the cell types containing lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus nucleic acid in the tissues of persistently infected mice. We confirm and extend previous observations of virus persistence in the brain, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, thyroid and reticuloendothelial system. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time persistence of viral nucleic acid in specific cell types in the thymus, lymph nodes, testes and bladder, and the adrenal, parathyroid and salivary glands; the cell types infected were observed in several animals. In lymphoid tissue, viral nucleic acid was predominantly located in the T cell-dependent areas of the spleen and lymph nodes; it was also present in cells of the thymic medulla. This has important implications for the deficiency in T cell function observed in persistently infected mice. In the testes, viral nucleic acid was detected in spermatogonia but not differentiating spermatocytes and therefore, in this tissue at least, persistence is related to the state of differentiation of the cell. Endocrine and exocrine dysfunctions have been described in persistently infected mice and we report that the highest levels of viral nucleic acid were found in the adrenal gland. The infection of endocrine and exocrine tissue was not pantropic, specific cell types expressed viral nucleic acid in each tissue. In the adrenal cortex, cells of the zona reticularis and zona fasciculata but not the zona glomerulosa were positive, whereas in the adrenal medulla viral nucleic acid was predominantly localized to adrenalin-secreting cells. Infection of the renal tubules, transitional epithelium of the bladder and the ducts of the salivary gland indicates the likely sites of virus production for the dissemination of arenavirus infections.


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