Vaccinia virus can be used to infect cells in the CNS of frogs, Xenopus laevis, and Rana pipiens, both in vivo and in vitro. In vivo infections were accomplished by injection of viral solution into the tectal ventricle of stage 40-48 tadpoles or by local injections into distinct neural regions. Infections with high titer of virus injected into the ventricle resulted in the majority of cells in the brain expressing foreign protein, while cells in the retina and optic nerve showed no expression. Infection with lower viral titers resulted in fewer infected cells that were distributed throughout the otherwise normal tissue. Intense expression of foreign protein in the brain was observed 36 hr after injection and remained high for at least 4 days. Infected animals developed normally and had the same number of cells in the optic tectum as control animals. Infection with a recombinant virus carrying the gene for Green Fluorescent Protein labels neurons, so that infected cells can be observed in vivo. Vaccinia virus provides a versatile means to alter proteins in distinct populations of neurons in amphibia.
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