Virus persists in beta cells of islets of Langerhans and is associated with chemical manifestations of diabetes

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Science  29 Jun 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4656, pp. 1440-1443
DOI: 10.1126/science.6203172


Molecular hybridization, monoclonal antibody, and electron microscopic analyses showed lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (strains Armstrong and WE) persistently infecting cells of the islets of Langerhans in BALB/WEHI mice. When monoclonal or monospecific antibody conjugated with two different fluorochrome dyes was used to mark insulin-containing beta cells or viral antigens, viral nucleoprotein was identified predominantly in beta cells. Electron microscopy confirmed these findings by showing virions budding from the beta cells. Persistent infection was associated with chemical evidence of diabetes (hyperglycemia, abnormal glucose tolerance, and normal or low-normal concentrations of insulin). Concentrations of cortisol and insulin-like growth factor in blood were normal, as was the level of growth hormone in the pituitary gland. The virus-infected islet cells showed normal anatomy and cytomorphology. Neither cell lysis nor inflammatory infiltrates were routinely seen. Thus a virus may persistently infect islet cells and provide a biochemical and morphological picture comparable to that of early adult-onset diabetes mellitus in humans.