Immunocytochemistry on serial paraffin sections was used to monitor the production dynamics of cytokines (IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha) and viral antigens in the trigeminal ganglion (TG) and the central side of the dorsal root entry zone (DRE) of mice, following infection of the cornea with herpes simplex virus type 1. In normal TG, scattered satellite cells were TNF-alpha+ and in the DRE, TNF-alpha+ and/or low numbers of IL-6+ cells were detected. On day 3 after infection, foci of TG neurons with viral antigens were surrounded by large numbers of TNF-alpha+ and/or IL-6+ cells and low numbers of IFN-gamma+ cells. IL-2+ and/or IL-4+ cells appeared later, when viral antigens had almost cleared. In the TG, the most striking changes occurred with TNF-alpha, with respect to its source (satellite cells, Schwann cells and infiltrating cells) and the extent and long duration of its production. TNF-alpha was the predominant cytokine throughout acute and latent infection and even by day 30, numbers of satellite cells expressing this cytokine were three times higher than those in normal ganglia. Moreover, in the DRE, TNF-alpha was the only cytokine detected during virus clearance and again, its production continued, along with that of IL-6, on days 20 to 30, in both infiltrating cells and astrocytes. Thus, cytokines, particularly TNF-alpha and perhaps IL-6, from infiltrating cells and resident glial cells may have a role both in virus clearance and in normal homeostatic mechanisms in the nervous system such as repair and protection of neurons from damage.


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