Uptake and transneuronal passage of wild-type and attenuated strains of a swine α-herpesvirus (pseudorabies [PRV]) were examined in rat visual projections. Both strains of virus infected subpopulations of retinal ganglion cells and passed transneuronally to infect retinorecipient neurons in the forebrain. However, the location of infected forebrain neurons varied with the strain of virus. Intravitreal injection of wild-type virus produced two temporally separated waves of infection that eventually reached all known retino-recipient regions of the central neuraxis. By contrast, the attenuated strain of PRV selectively infected a functionally distinct subset of retinal ganglion cells with restricted central projections. The data indicate that projection-specific groups of ganglion cells are differentially susceptible to the two strains of virus and suggest that this sensitivity may be receptor mediated.
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