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The in vitro effects of viral replication on mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) were evaluated as two parameters of potential cellular injury. Two distinct cell types were infected with the Petaluma strain of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Primary astroglia supported acute FIV infection, resulting in syncytia within 3 days of infection, whereas immortalized Crandell feline kidney (CRFK) cells of epithelial origin supported persistent FIV infection in the absence of an obvious cytopathic effect. An examination of cells under conditions that included an infection rate of more than 90% for either population revealed that the astroglia produced about four times more virus than the CRFK cells. The mitochondrial uptake of the cationic fluorescent dye rhodamine 123 in infected astroglia was less than 45% of that of normal control cells, whereas the MMP of the CRFK cells, which produced about one-fourth as much virus, was 80.8% of that of the normal cells. Cell-cell communication between adjacent cells was determined by the recovery of fluorescence following photobleaching of a single cell. In spite of the lower level of innate cell-cell communication among cultured CRFK cells than among astroglia, viral replication resulted in a 30% decrease in the GJIC of both astroglia and CRFK cells. These studies indicate that cell injury, as defined by an inhibition of MMP and GJIC, can occur as a result of persistent and acute infection with the Petaluma strain of FIV.