JC virus binds to primary human glial cells, tonsillar stromal cells, and B-lymphocytes, but not to T lymphocytes

J Neurovirol. 2000 Apr;6(2):127-36. doi: 10.3109/13550280009013156.


The human polyomavirus, JCV, is the etiological agent of the fatal central nervous system demyelinating disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). In PML patients, JC Virus (JCV) can be detected in glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS); in B-lymphocytes in the peripheral blood, bone marrow, spleen, and tonsil; and in tonsillar stromal cells. In vitro, JCV infects glial cells, tonsillar stromal cells, and to a limited extent B-lymphocytes. The presence or absence of as yet unidentified cell type specific transcription factors contributes to the restricted tropism of JCV for these cell types. However, several studies indicate that cell surface receptors may also contribute to the limited host range of JCV. To examine this latter possibility we measured the binding of purified JCV virions to primary cultures of glial cells, tonsillar stromal cells, peripheral blood lymphocytes, and to several established cell lines. Our results demonstrate that JCV binds to primary glial cells, stromal cells, and B cells, but does not bind to primary T cells. In contrast, JCV bound to all cell lines tested, including the Namalwa B cell line and the Jurkat T cell line. These data are novel and demonstrate that JCV selectively interacts with cells in vivo that are known to be susceptible to infection. This selectivity appears to be lost when one examines virus binding to a variety of human, monkey, or mouse tumor cell lines. We next examined the susceptibility of primary peripheral blood lymphocytes and the Namalwa B cell line to infection with JCV. Our results demonstrate that the majority of infectious JCV virions remain cell surface associated and do not efficiently establish infection of B cells. This may explain the in vivo observation that JCV DNA is frequently detected in association with lymphocytes by PCR but that JCV mRNA is rarely detected in association with lymphocytes by reverse transcriptase PCR. These results also confirm previous data regarding the association of JCV with human B cells in vivo and support the hypothesis that B cells may be involved in trafficking of JCV to the CNS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Polyomavirus Transforming / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Polyomavirus Transforming / genetics
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / pathology
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / genetics
  • JC Virus / metabolism*
  • JC Virus / physiology
  • Jurkat Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neuraminidase / pharmacology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Palatine Tonsil / cytology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Viral / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Species Specificity
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Virion / metabolism
  • Virus Latency
  • Virus Replication


  • Antigens, Polyomavirus Transforming
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • Receptors, Virus
  • Neuraminidase