Transneuronal circuit tracing with neurotropic viruses

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008 Dec;18(6):617-23. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2009.03.007. Epub 2009 Apr 6.


Because neurotropic viruses naturally traverse neural pathways, they are extremely valuable for elucidating neural circuits. Naturally occurring herpes and rabies viruses have been used for transneuronal circuit tracing for decades. Depending on the type of virus and strain, virus can travel preferentially in the anterograde or the retrograde direction. More recently, genetic modifications have allowed for many improvements. These include: reduced pathogenicity; addition of marker genes; control of synaptic spread; pseudotyping for infection of selected cells; addition of ancillary genetic elements for combining circuit tracing with manipulation of activity or functional assays. These modifications, along with the likelihood of future developments, suggest that neurotropic viruses will be increasingly important and effective tools for future studies of neural circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Histocytochemistry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / virology*
  • Viral Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viruses*


  • Viral Proteins