Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus-induced demyelinating disease (TMEV-IDD), a model for multiple sclerosis, is a chronic T cell-mediated disease. Development of clinical symptoms in susceptible mouse strains generally correlates with TMEV-specific delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses. These responses, minimal or absent in resistant mouse strains, have been proposed as the pathogenic basis for the central nervous system inflammation and demyelination characterizing the disease. We demonstrate here that normally resistant (C57BL/6 × DBA/2)F1 hybrid mice develop clinical symptoms and DTH responses against TMEV after low doses of γ-irradiation. Parental C57BL/6 animals remain resistant after similar pretreatment. Thus low-dose irradiation elicits a “latent” susceptibility to TMEV-IDD in some, but not all, resistant mice. Adoptively transferred spleen cells from syngeneic, unirradiated donors reconfer resistance on irradiated, infected B6D2F1 hybrids and reduce DTH responsiveness against TMEV, suggesting a protective role for a radiation-sensitive splenic population(s). The closely related C57BL/6 and C57BL/10 strains differ with respect to intrinsic and latent susceptibility.
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