Cerebral endothelial cell infection by measles virus in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: ultrastructural and in situ hybridization evidence

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 1991 Aug;17(4):289-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2990.1991.tb00726.x.


Infection of vascular endothelium plays a central role in the pathogenesis of acute measles virus infection outside the central nervous system (CNS) but has not been described in the human CNS. An ultrastructural survey was made of blood vessels in five cases of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) to determine whether or not infection of cerebral vascular endothelium occurred in this persistent fatal CNS disease caused by measles virus. Morbillivirus nucleocapsids were found in a few endothelial cells in three necropsy cases but not in the limited tissue available from two biopsies. In a severe parenchymal lesion in one necropsied case, endothelial cells hybridized in situ with a biotinylated probe specific for the N genomic RNA of measles virus. It is concluded that human cerebral endothelium is susceptible to measles virus infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / microbiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Measles virus / isolation & purification*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis / microbiology*
  • Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis / pathology