Previous studies have suggested that monocytes or macrophages may mediate internal virus spread. For the present study, the tissue distribution and infectious potential of dye-labelled and/or lactate dehydrogenase-elevating virus (LDV)-infected murine macrophages were determined. Murine peritoneal macrophages were labelled with the fluorescent carbocyanine tracking dye Dil, injected into mice, and the tissue distribution of Dil-labelled cells was determined by fluorescence analysis of frozen sections. Mice receiving intravenous (i.v.) or intraperitoneal injections of Dil-labelled macrophages displayed rapid and broad tissue distribution of the labelled cells. Intravaginal injection of Dil-labelled macrophages resulted in penetration into the placentas, but not the fetuses, of pregnant mice. When macrophages were LDV-infected and Dil-labelled prior to i.v. injection into pregnant mice, they homed to various tissues including the placenta, but were not found in fetuses. Intravaginal injection of LDV-infected macrophages resulted in systemic LDV infection, even though the free-virus dose was less than the minimum infectious dose by this route. Neither polyclonal nor monoclonal IgG anti-LDV antibodies protected mice from vaginal infection with cell-associated virus, and LDV-immune complexes were themselves infectious by the vaginal route. These results show that exogenous macrophages are widely distributed following parenteral injection, penetrate locally to placentas after intravaginal injection, and are capable of acting vaginally as relatively efficient virus infection-delivery vehicles. Thus, ‘Trojan Horse’ macrophages are potentially infectious vehicles both for internal virus spread and for animal-to-animal transmission.


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