Distinct roles of protein kinase R and toll-like receptor 3 in the activation of astrocytes by viral stimuli

Pamela A. Carpentier, Bryan R. Williams, Stephen D. Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Impaired immune surveillance and constitutive immunosuppressive properties make the central nervous system (CNS) a particular challenge to immune defense, and require that CNS-resident cells be capable of rapidly recognizing and responding to infection. We have previously shown that astrocytes respond to treatment with a TLR3 ligand, poly I:C, with the upregulation of innate immune functions. In the current study, we examine the activation of innate immune functions of astrocytes by Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV), a picornavirus, which establishes a persistent infection in the CNS of susceptible strains of mice and leads to the development of an autoimmune demyelinating disease that resembles human multiple sclerosis. Astrocytes infected with TMEV are activated to produce type I interferons, the cytokine IL-6, and chemokines CCL2 and CXCL10. We further examined the mechanisms that are responsible for the activation of astrocytes in response to direct viral infection and treatment with poly I:C. We found that the cytoplasmic dsRNA-activated kinase PKR is important for innate immune responses to TMEV infection, but has no role in their induction by poly I:C delivered extracellularly. In contrast, we found that TLR3 has only a minor role in responses to TMEV infection, but is important for responses to poly I:C. These results highlight the differences between responses induced by direct, nonlytic virus infection and extracellular poly I:C. The activation of astrocytes through these different pathways has implications for the initiation and progression of viral encephalitis and demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-252
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • CNS
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Innate immune
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • TMEV
  • dsRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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