Clinical Neuroscience

Facial virus inoculations infect vestibular and auditory neurons in rats

HELFFERICH Frigyes1, LOURMET Guillaume1, SZABÓ Rebeka Éva1, BOLDOGKŐI Zsolt2, PALKOVITS Miklós1

JANUARY 30, 2016

Clinical Neuroscience - 2016;69(01-02)


Background and purpose – There is growing evidence for the viral origin of the Bell’s facial palsy, vestibular neuritis and sudden sensorineural hearing loss, however their exact pathophysiology is still unknown. We investigated the possibility of brainstem infections following peripheral viral inoculations in rats. Methods – Pseudorabies virus, a commonly used neurotropic viral retrograde tracer was injected into the nasolabial region of rats. Five and 6 days after injections, infected brainstem nuclei were demonstrated by immunohistochemical techniques. Results – Infected neurons were found in the motor facial, the medial vestibular, and the sensory trigeminal nuclei, as well as in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body. Conclusion – Pseudorabies virus infects auditory and vestibular sensory neurons in the brainstem through facial inoculation. The possible routes of infections: 1. trans-synaptic spread constituted by facio-vestibular anastomoses: primarily infected motor facial neuron infects neurons in the medial vestibular nucleus, 2. via trigeminal sensory nerves: the sensory trigeminal complex innervated by GABAergic medial vestibular neurons, and 3. one bisynaptical route: infected facial motoneurons may receive indirect input from the medial vestibular nucleus and the trapezoid body via connecting neurons in the sensory trigeminal complex. We may assume that latent infections of these areas may precede the infections of the peripheral organs and the reactivation of the virus exerts the symptoms.


  1. Laboratory of Neuromorphology, Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Semmelweis University and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
  2. Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Szeged, Szeged



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