Background: As one of the natural perturbants, infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV) is believed to play a role in the development of Type I diabetes. Using the DP-BB rat model for autoimmune diabetes, we here report about possible mechanisms responsible for R(at)CMV-induced accelerated onset of diabetes.
Methods: Rats were i.p. infected with 2 × 106 plaque forming units (pfu) RCMV and followed for diabetes development. Presence of RCMV antigens and DNA was analyzed by immunohistochemistry and PCR on pancreatic tissue and isolated islets. The effect of viral infection on peritoneal macrophages (pMΦ) and diabetes development was studied by analyzing numbers of pMΦ, virus permissiveness and by depletion of this subset by peritoneal lavage.
Results: RCMV accelerated onset of diabetes without infecting pancreatic islets. Immunohistochemistry and PCR on pancreas and isolated islets indicated that islets are non-permissive for RCMV. Infection results in an influx of pMΦ 1 day p.i. of which ~0.05% showed signs of reproductive infection. Depletion of pMΦ on days 1-3 p.i. completely counteracted the accelerating effect of RCMV.
Interpretation: RCMV accelerates onset of diabetes without infecting pancreatic islets. pMΦ might function as an carriage to disseminate virus to the pancreas where they enhance activation of autoreactive T cells resulting in accelerated onset of diabetes.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections have been shown to dramatically affect solid organ transplant graft survival in both human and animal models. Recently, it was demonstrated that rat CMV (RCMV) infection accelerates the development of transplant vascular sclerosis (TVS) in both rat heart and small bowel graft transplants. However, the mechanisms involved in this process are still unclear. In the present study, we determined the kinetics of RCMV-accelerated TVS in a rat heart transplant model. Acute RCMV infection enhances the development of TVS in rat heart allografts, and this process is initiated between 21 and 24 days posttransplantation. The virus is consistently detected in the heart grafts from day 7 until day 35 posttransplantation but is rarely found at the time of graft rejection (day 45 posttransplantation). Grafts from RCMV-infected recipients had upregulation of chemokine expression compared to uninfected controls, and the timing of this increased expression paralleled that of RCMV-accelerated neointimal formation. In addition, graft vessels from RCMV-infected grafts demonstrate the increased infiltration of T cells and macrophages during periods of highest chemokine expression. These results suggest that CMV-induced acceleration of TVS involves the increased graft vascular infiltration of inflammatory cells through enhanced chemokine expression.
We investigated the role of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) in the pathogenesis of rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) infection. TNF-alpha levels found in the sera of radiation-immunosuppressed rats in the course of infection (> 350 pg/ml) correlated with the development of RCMV disease. Administration of anti-TNF-alpha antibodies strongly reduced the severity of pneumonia and led to a reduction in virus titers. In immunocompetent rats, anti-TNF-alpha antibodies also significantly suppressed viral replication. Conversely, administration of TNF-alpha augmented RCMV replication and aggravated the disease signs. In vitro, TNF-alpha enhanced RCMV replication in the macrophage, whereas a reduction of viral replication was observed in fibroblasts, indicating that the effect on viral replication is cell type specific. Besides activation of viral replication and exacerbation of RCMV disease, TNF-alpha also favored lymphoid and hematopoietic tissue reconstitution after irradiation, which may contribute to antiviral resistance and survival. This finding demonstrates the protean nature of TNF-alpha, with both beneficial and adverse effects for the host. Our results suggest that TNF-alpha plays an important role in modulating the pathogenesis of RCMV infection.
Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is associated with the acceleration of transplant vascular sclerosis (TVS) and chronic allograft rejection (CR). HCMV-negative recipients of latently HCMV infected donor grafts are at highest risk for developing CMV-disease. Using a rat heart transplant CR model, we have previously shown that acute rat CMV (RCMV) infection following transplantation significantly accelerates both TVS and CR. Here, we report that RCMV-naïve recipients of heart allografts from latently RCMV-infected donors undergo acceleration of CR with similar kinetics as acutely infected recipients. In contrast to acutely infected recipients, treatment of recipients of latently infected donor hearts with ganciclovir did not prevent CR or TVS. We observed the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLOs) containing macrophages and T-cells in latently infected hearts prior to transplantation but not in uninfected rats. Moreover, pathway analysis of gene expression data from allografts from latently infected donors, indicated an early and sustained production of TLO-associated genes compared to allografts from uninfected donors. We conclude that RCMV-induced TLO formation and alteration of donor tissue T-cell profiles prior to transplantation in part mediate the ganciclovir-insensitive rejection of latently infected donor allografts transplanted into naïve recipients by providing a scaffold for immune activation.
Cytomegalovirus; Chronic Rejection; Transplant Vascular Sclerosis; Latency
Cytomegaloviruses manipulate the host chemokine/receptor axis by altering cellular chemokine expression and by encoding multiple chemokines and chemokine receptors. Similar to human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) encodes multiple CC chemokine-analogous proteins, including r129 (HCMV UL128 homologue) and r131 (HCMV UL130 and MCMV m129/130 homologues). Although these proteins play a role in CMV entry, their function as chemotactic cytokines remains unknown. In the current study, we examined the role of the RCMV chemokine r129 in promoting cellular migration and in accelerating transplant vascular sclerosis (TVS) in our rat heart transplant model. We determined that r129 protein is released into culture supernatants of infected cells and is expressed with late viral gene kinetics during RCMV infection and highly expressed in heart and salivary glands during in vivo rat infections. Using the recombinant r129 protein, we demonstrated that r129 induces migration of lymphocytes isolated from rat peripheral blood, spleen, and bone marrow and from a rat macrophage cell line. Using antibody-mediated cell sorting of rat splenocytes, we demonstrated that r129 induces migration of naïve/central memory CD4+ T cells. Through ligand-binding assays, we determined that r129 binds rat CC chemokine receptors CCR3, CCR4, CCR5, and CCR7. In addition, mutational analyses identified functional domains of r129 resulting in recombinant proteins that fail to induce migration (r129-ΔNT and -C31A) or alter the chemotactic ability of the chemokine (r129-F43A). Two of the mutant proteins (r129-C31A and -ΔNT) also act as dominant negatives by inhibiting migration induced by wild-type r129. Furthermore, infection of rat heart transplant recipients with RCMV containing the r129-ΔNT mutation prevented CMV-induced acceleration of TVS. Together our findings indicate that RCMV r129 is highly chemotactic, which has important implications during RCMV infection and reactivation and acceleration of TVS.
The contribution of antecedent viral infection to the development of type 1 diabetes in humans is controversial. Using a newer rat model of the disease, we sought to 1) identify viruses capable of modulating diabetes penetrance, 2) identify conditions that increase or decrease the diabetogenicity of infection, and 3) determine whether maternal immunization would prevent diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
About 2% of LEW.1WR1 rats develop spontaneous autoimmune diabetes, but disease penetrance is much higher if weanling rats are exposed to environmental perturbants including Kilham rat virus (KRV). We compared KRV with other viruses for diabetogenic activity.
Both KRV and rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) induced diabetes in up to 60% of LEW.1WR1 rats, whereas H-1, vaccinia, and Coxsackie B4 viruses did not. Simultaneous inoculation of KRV and RCMV induced diabetes in 100% of animals. Pretreatment of rats with an activator of innate immunity increased the diabetogenicity of KRV but not RCMV and was associated with a moderate rate of diabetes after Coxsackie B4 and vaccinia virus infection. Inoculation of LEW.1WR1 dams with both KRV and RCMV prior to pregnancy protected weanling progeny from virus-induced diabetes in a virus-specific manner.
Exposure to viruses can affect the penetrance of autoimmune diabetes in genetically susceptible animals. The diabetogenicity of infection is virus specific and is modified by immunomodulation prior to inoculation. Maternal immunization protects weanlings from virus-induced diabetes, suggesting that modification of immune responses to infection could provide a means of preventing islet autoimmunity.
Rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) is a β-herpesvirus with a 230-kbp genome containing over 167 open reading frames (ORFs). RCMV gene expression is tightly regulated in cultured cells, occurring in three distinct kinetic classes (immediate early, early, and late). However, the extent of viral-gene expression in vivo and its relationship to the in vitro expression are unknown. In this study, we used RCMV-specific DNA microarrays to investigate the viral transcriptional profiles in cultured, RCMV-infected endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and aortic smooth muscle cells and to compare these profiles to those found in tissues from RCMV-infected rat heart transplant recipients. In cultured cells, RCMV expresses approximately 95% of the known viral ORFs with few differences between cell types. By contrast, in vivo viral-gene expression in tissues from rat heart allograft recipients is highly restricted. In the tissues studied, a total of 80 viral genes expressing levels twice above background (5,000 to 10,000 copies per μg total RNA) were detected. In each tissue type, there were a number of genes expressed exclusively in that tissue. Although viral mRNA and genomic DNA levels were lower in the spleen than in submandibular glands, the number of individual viral genes expressed was higher in the spleen (60 versus 41). This finding suggests that the number of viral genes expressed is specific to a given tissue and is not dependent upon the viral load or viral mRNA levels. Our results demonstrate that the profiles, as well as the amplitude, of viral-gene expression are tissue specific and are dramatically different from those in infected cultured cells, indicating that RCMV gene expression in vitro does not reflect viral-gene expression in vivo.
A major locus of rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) immediate-early (IE) RNA transcription was identified. A cDNA library from rat embryo fibroblasts infected with RCMV under IE conditions was constructed and screened by using appropriate RCMV DNA probes, revealing at least two IE genes (IE1 and IE2) transcribed from this locus by differential splicing. The first three exons (the first is noncoding) are spliced to exon 4 to form IE1 and to exon 5 to form IE2. The structural organization of the RCMV major IE region is therefore similar to that of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). When we compared the predicted amino acid sequences of the IE1 proteins of RCMV, HCMV, and MCMV, no areas of homology were found across all three proteins, while a few small areas of homology were found between RCMV IE1 and MCMV IE1. In contrast, large areas of homology were found across the carboxyl half of RCMV IE2, HCMV IE2, and MCMV ie3 proteins. In addition, similarities were found at the beginning of exon 5 of RCMV and MCMV. The possible significance of these conserved regions is discussed. Dinucleotide frequency analysis demonstrated a decrease in CpG frequency over the IE region. The IE gene products were able to transactivate heterologous promoters.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been associated with accelerated transplant vasculopathy. In this study, we assessed the effects of acute rat CMV (RCMV) infection on vessel remodeling in transplant vasculopathy, focusing on allograft morphology, inflammation and contribution of adventitial cells to intimal hyperplasia.
Infrarenal aorta was locally infected with RCMV and transplanted from female F344 rats to male Lewis rats. Graft samples were collected 2 and 8 weeks after transplantation and analyzed for intimal hyperplasia, collagen degradation and inflammation. Transplantation of aorta followed by transplantation of RCMV infected and labeled isogenic adventitia were performed to study migration of adventitial cells towards the intima.
Intimal hyperplasia was increased threefold in infected allografts. RCMV induced apoptosis in the media, expression of matrix metalloproteinase 2, and decreased collagen deposits. Macrophage infiltration was increased in the infected allografts and resulted in increased production of MCP-1. RCMV-infected macrophages were observed in the adventitia and intima. Cells derived from infected adventitia migrated towards the intima of the allograft.
RCMV enhances infiltration of macrophages to the allografts, and thereby increases MCP-1 production and inflammation, followed by recruitment of adventitial cells to the intima and accelerated intimal hyperplasia.
The role of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) in the resolution of rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) infection was investigated. In the spleen, IFN-gamma-producing cells reached maximum numbers on day 7 after infection. Prophylactic treatment with high doses of recombinant rat IFN-gamma exerted antiviral activity in fibroblasts and protected immunosuppressed rats against a lethal RCMV challenge. Remarkably, in immunocompetent rats, neutralization of endogenous IFN-gamma activity significantly reduced the numbers of RCMV antigen-expressing cells in the spleen, the predominant site of viral replication. Moreover, protection of radiation-immunosuppressed infected rats by transferred immune T cells was enhanced by coinjection of IFN-gamma neutralizing antibodies. The observations were paralleled by in vitro findings: low concentrations of IFN-gamma enhanced viral replication in both macrophages and fibroblasts. These data suggest that IFN-gamma can play different and even opposite roles in the regulation of RCMV replication in vivo; T lymphocytes may contribute to the progression of RCMV infection by secreting IFN-gamma.
The role of leukocytes in the in vivo dissemination of cytomegalovirus was studied in this experiment. Rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) could be transferred to rat granulocytes and monocytes by cocultivation with RCMV-infected fibroblasts in vitro. Intravenous injection of purified infected granulocytes or monocytes resulted in a systemic infection in rats, indicating that our model is a powerful tool to gain further insight into CMV dissemination and the development of new antivirals.
The rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) r144 gene encodes a polypeptide homologous to major histocompatibility complex class I heavy chains. To study the role of r144 in virus replication, an RCMV r144 null mutant strain (RCMVΔr144) was generated. This strain replicated with efficiency similar to that of wild-type (WT) RCMV in vitro. Additionally, WT RCMV and RCMVΔr144 were found not to differ in their replication characteristics in vivo. First, the survival rate was similar among groups of immunosuppressed rats infected with either RCMVΔr144 or WT RCMV. Second, the dissemination of virus did not differ in either RCMVΔr144- or WT RCMV-infected, immunosuppressed rats, either in the acute phase of infection or approximately 1 year after infection. These data indicate that the RCMV r144 gene is essential neither for virus replication in the acute phase of infection nor for long-term infection in immunocompromised rats. Interestingly, in a local infection model in which footpads of immunosuppressed rats were inoculated with virus, a significantly higher number of infiltrating macrophage cells as well as of CD8+ T cells was observed in WT RCMV-infected paws than in RCMVΔr144-infected paws. This suggests that r144 might function in the interaction with these leukocytes in vivo.
We have identified a rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) gene that encodes a G-protein-coupled receptor (GCR) homolog. This gene (R33) belongs to a family that includes the human cytomegalovirus UL33 gene. R33 was found to be transcribed during the late phase of RCMV infection in rat embryo fibroblasts. Unlike the mRNAs from all the other members of the UL33 family that have been studied to date, the R33 mRNA is not spliced. To study the function of the R33 gene, we constructed an RCMV strain in which the R33 open reading frame is disrupted. The mutant strain (RCMVΔR33) did not show differences in replication from wild-type RCMV upon infection of several rat cell types in vitro. However, marked differences were seen between the mutant and wild-type strain in the pathogenesis of infection in immunocompromised rats. First, the mutant strain induced a significantly lower mortality than the wild-type virus did. Second, in contrast to wild-type RCMV, the mutant strain did not efficiently replicate in the salivary gland epithelial cells of immunocompromised rats. Although viral DNA was detected in salivary glands of RCMVΔR33-infected rats up to 14 days postinfection, it could not be detected at later time points. This indicates that although the strain with R33 deleted is probably transported to the salivary glands in a similar fashion to that for wild-type virus, the mutant virus is not able to either enter or replicate in salivary gland epithelial cells. We conclude that the RCMV R33 gene plays a vital role in the pathogenesis of infection.
While cytomegalovirus (CMV) infects and replicates in a multitude of cell types, the ability of the virus to replicate in antigen presenting cells (APCs) is believed to play a critical role in the viral dissemination and latency. CMV infection of APCs and manipulation of their function is an important area of investigation. CMV down regulation of MHC II is reportedly mediated by the HCMV proteins US2, US3, UL83, UL111a (vIL10) or through the induction of cellular IL10. In this study, we demonstrate that rat CMV (RCMV) significantly reduces MHC II expression by mechanisms that do not involve orthologues of the known HCMV genes nor by an increase in cellular IL10. Rat bone marrow derived dendritic cells (BMDC) were highly susceptible to infection with RCMV and a recombinant RCMV expressing eGFP. RCMV infection of BMDCs depleted both surface and intracellular MHC II to nearly undetectable levels as well as reduced surface expression of MHC I. The effect on MHC II only occurred in the infected GFP positive cells and is mediated by an immediate early or early viral gene product. Furthermore, treatment of uninfected immature DCs with virus-free conditioned supernatants from infected cells failed to down regulate MHC II. RCMV depletion of MHC II was sensitve to treatment with lysosomal inhibitors but not proteasomal inhibitors suggesting that the mechanism of RCMV mediated down-regulation of MHC II occurs through endocytic degradation. Since RCMV does not encode homologues of US2, US3, UL83 or UL111a, these data indicate a novel mechanism for RCMV depletion of MHC II.
Inbred DA (AG-B4, RT1a) and WF (AG-B2, RT1v) rats were used as donors and recipients of aortic allografts. The recipient rats were inoculated i.p. either on day 1 (early infection) or on day 60 (late infection) with 10(5) plaque-forming units of rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV). The control rats were left noninfected. The presence of viral infection was demonstrated by plaque assays from biopsies of the salivary glands, liver, and spleen at sacrifice. The rats received 300 microCi[3H]thymidine by i.v. injection 3 h before sacrifice, and the grafts were removed at various time points for histology, immunohistochemistry, and autoradiography. RCMV infection significantly enhanced the generation of allograft arteriosclerosis. Infection at the time of transplantation had two important effects. First, the infection was associated with an early, prominent inflammatory episode and proliferation of inflammatory cells in the allograft adventitia. Second, the viral infection doubled the proliferation rate of smooth muscle cells and the arteriosclerotic alterations in the intima. In late infection the impact of RCMV infection on the allograft histology was nearly nonexistent. RCMV infection showed no effect in syngeneic grafts. These results suggest that early infection is more important to the generation of accelerated allograft arteriosclerosis than late infection, and that an acute alloimmune response must be associated with virus infection, to induce accelerated allograft arteriosclerosis. RCMV-infected aortic allografts, as described here, provide the first experimental model to investigate the interaction between the virus and the vascular wall of the transplant.
Two antiviral compounds, (S)-1-(3-hydroxy-2-phosphonylmethoxypropyl)cytosine [HPMPC] and 9-(1,3-dihydroxy-2-propoxymethyl)guanine [DHPG], were evaluated for their inhibitory effects on human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) replication in human embryonal fibroblasts and on rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) replication in rat embryonal fibroblasts. The concentrations of HPMPC or DHPG required to inhibit HCMV plaque formation by 50% were 0.1 and 0.6 micrograms/ml, respectively. For RCMV, these values were 1.1 and 25 micrograms/ml, respectively. For HCMV, the selectivity indices of HPMPC and DHPG, as determined by the ratio of the 50% inhibitory concentration for cell growth to the 50% inhibitory concentration for virus plaque formation, were 1,250 and 140, respectively, and for RCMV, they were 500 and 76, respectively. HPMPC was far more active than DHPG against RCMV infection in vivo as measured by mortality, histopathological changes, and virus titers in organs of immunocompromised RCMV-infected rats. The minimal effective dosage required to prevent mortality from RCMV infection was a single dose of HPMPC at 2 mg/kg of body weight compared with DHPG therapy twice daily at 20 mg/kg/day for 5 days. Furthermore, HPMPC was more effective than DHPG in reducing virus titers in internal organs (P less than 0.01) and in RCMV-induced histopathologic lesions. In contrast to DHPG, which did not show activity when administered 1 day before infection, HPMPC was effective even when administered 7 days before RCMV infection.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) congenital infection is the major viral cause of well-documented birth defects in human. Because CMV is species-specific, the main obstacle to developing animal models for congenital infection is the difference in placental architecture, which preludes virus transmission across the placenta. The rat placenta, resembling histologically to that of human, could therefore facilitate the study of CMV congenital infection in human.
In this report, we present clear evidences of the transplacental property of a new rat CMV (RCMV), namely ALL-03, which had been isolated from placenta and uterus of the house rat. Our study signifies the detection of infectious virus, virus particles, viral protein and DNA as well as immune response to demonstrate a natural model of acute CMV infection including the immunocompetent and immunocompromised host associated with or without pregnancy. It is characterized by a full range of CMV related clinical signs; lesions and anatomical virus distribution to uterus, placenta, embryo, fetus, neonate, lung, kidney, spleen, liver and salivary gland of the infected rats in addition to the virus-specific seroconversion. The preference of the virus for different organs mimics the situation in immunocompromised man. Most interestingly, the placenta was observed to be involved in the maternofetal infection and hence confirmed the hypothesis that the RCMV strain ALL-03 is capable to cross the placenta and infect the offsprings congenitally.
The maternal viremia leading to uterine infection which subsequently infecting to the fetus through the placenta is the most likely phenomenon of CMV vertical transmission in our study.
Two antiviral compounds, (S)-1-(3-hydroxy-2-phosphonylmethoxypropyl)cytosine (HPMPC) and 9-(1,3-dihydroxy-2-propoxymethyl)guanine (DHPG), were evaluated for their effects on rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV)-induced interstitial pneumonitis after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMTx). Eight-week-old Brown Norway rats immunosuppressed by a lethal dose of total body irradiation were inoculated with RCMV and received allogeneic bone marrow cells from Lewis rats. Animals were treated with either HPMPC (20 mg/kg of body weight as a single dose) or DHPG (20 mg/kg as two daily doses for 5 days). The effect of antiviral therapy was monitored by measuring RCMV titers in different organs and the histopathologic changes in lungs at 8 to 10 days postinfection. In RCMV-infected allogeneic BMTx recipients, severe diffuse thickening of alveolar septa (6.02 microns) with a diffuse infiltration of mononuclear cells occurred, whereas in the noninfected allogeneic BMTx recipients, the septal width was on the order of 2 microns (P < 0.01). Treatment with DHPG (20 mg/kg in two daily doses for 5 days) resulted in a decrease in virus titers (log10 PFU per gram of tissue) in lungs and spleens from 3.81 +/- 0.34 and 4.29 +/- 1.07 (untreated animals) to 1.26 +/- 0.53 and 3.22 +/- 0.27 (treated animals), respectively. Treatment with HPMPC (20 mg/kg as a single dose) resulted in a complete reduction of virus titers in all organs to below the detection level (P < 0.01). Furthermore, antiviral treatment resulted in a reduction of the alveolar septal width from 6.02 +/- 1.59 microns (untreated animals) to 4.67 +/- 1.70 and 3.32 +/- 0.63 microns after DHPG and HPMPC treatment, respectively. Treatment with HPMPC (20 mg/kg as a single dose) resulted in a complete reduction of virus titers in all organs to below the detection level (P <0.01). Furthermore, antiviral treatment resulted in a reduction of the alveolar septal width from 6.02 +/- 1.59 micrometre (untreated animals) to 4.67 +/- 0.63 micrometre after DHPG and HPMPC treatment, respectively. Furthermore, the influx of mononuclear cells in the alveolar septa was significantly impaired after treatment with HPMPC (P <0.01). We conclude that in the described rat model, HPMPC is highly effective in suppressing RCMV-induced interstitial pneumonitis after allogeneic BMTx.
It has been hypothesized that the major immediate-early (MIE) enhancer of cytomegalovirus (CMV) is important in determining virus tropism and latency because of its essential role in initiating the cascade of early gene expression necessary for virus replication. Although rat CMV (RCMV) and murine CMV (MCMV) exhibit extreme species specificity in vivo, they differ in their ability to replicate in tissue culture. MCMV can replicate in a rat embryo fibroblast (REF) cell line while RCMV does not grow in murine fibroblasts. The tropism is not due to a block in virus entry into the cell. We have constructed a recombinant RCMV in which the RCMV MIE enhancer has been replaced with that of MCMV. Growth of the recombinant virus in tissue culture remains restricted to rat cells, suggesting that other viral and/or host factors are more important in determining in vitro tropism. Unlike findings using recombinant MCMV in which the human CMV (HCMV) MIE enhancer substitutes for the native one (A. Angulo, M. Messerle, U. H. Koszinowski, and P. Ghazal, J. Virol. 72:8502–8509, 1998), infection with our recombinant virus at a low multiplicity of infection resulted in a substantial decrease in virus replication. This occurred despite comparable or increased MIE transcription from the recombinant virus. In vivo experiments showed that the recombinant virus replicates normally in the spleen during acute infection. Notably, the recombinant virus appears to be deficient in spreading to the salivary gland, suggesting a role for the MIE enhancer in tropism for certain tissues involved in virus dissemination. Four months after infection, recombinant virus with the foreign MIE enhancer was reactivated from spleen explants.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small noncoding RNAs involved in posttranscriptional regulation. miRNAs are utilized in organisms ranging from plants to higher mammals, and data have shown that DNA viruses also use this method for host and viral gene regulation. Here, we report the sequencing of the small RNAs in rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV)-infected fibroblasts and persistently infected salivary glands. We identified 24 unique miRNAs that mapped to hairpin structures found within the viral genome. While most miRNAs were detected in both samples, four were detected exclusively in the infected fibroblasts and two were specific for the infected salivary glands. The RCMV miRNAs are distributed across the viral genome on both the positive and negative strands, with clusters of miRNAs at a number of locations, including near viral genes r1 and r111. The RCMV miRNAs have a genomic positional orientation similar to that of the miRNAs described for mouse cytomegalovirus, but they do not share any substantial sequence conservation. Similar to other reported miRNAs, the RCMV miRNAs had considerable variation at their 3′ and 5′ ends. Interestingly, we found a number of specific examples of differential isoform usage between the fibroblast and salivary gland samples. We determined by real-time PCR that expression of the RCMV miRNA miR-r111.1-2 is highly expressed in the salivary glands and that miR-R87-1 is expressed in most tissues during the acute infection phase. Our study identified the miRNAs expressed by RCMV in vitro and in vivo and demonstrated that expression is tissue specific and associated with a stage of viral infection.
The rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) R33 gene is conserved among all betaherpesviruses and encodes a protein (pR33) that shows sequence similarity with chemokine-binding G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Previously, the physiological significance of the R33 gene was demonstrated by the finding that an RCMV strain with R33 deleted is severely attenuated in vivo and is unable to either enter or replicate in the salivary glands of infected rats. Here, we report that RCMV pR33 is expressed as a functional GPCR that signals in an agonist-independent manner in both COS-7 and Rat2 cells. Transient expression of pR33 in COS-7 cells results in constitutive activation of phospholipase C (PLC) due to coupling to G proteins of the Gq class. Interestingly, PLC activation is partially inhibited by cotransfection with Gα-transducin subunits, which indicates the involvement of Gβγ as well as Gα subunits in pR33-mediated signaling. Surprisingly, PLC activation is also partially inhibited by addition of pertussis toxin (PTX), suggesting that pR33 activates not only Gq but also Gi/0 proteins. The constitutive activation of Gi/0 proteins by pR33 is further demonstrated by the PTX-sensitive decrease of CRE-mediated transcription and the PTX-sensitive increase of both NF-κB- and SRE-mediated transcription. In contrast to its homolog of human herpesvirus 6B (pU12), pR33 does not bind RANTES.
Congenital human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection can lead to long-term neurodevelopmental sequelae, including mental retardation and sensorineural hearing loss. Unfortunately, CMVs are highly adapted to their specific species, precluding the evaluation of HCMV vaccines in animal models prior to clinical trials. Several species-specific CMVs have been characterized and developed in models of pathogenesis and vaccine-mediated protection against disease. These include the murine CMV (MCMV), the porcine CMV (PCMV), the rhesus macaque CMV (RhCMV), the rat CMV (RCMV), and the guinea pig CMV (GPCMV). Because of the propensity of the GPCMV to cross the placenta, infecting the fetus in utero, it has emerged as a model of particular interest in studying vaccine-mediated protection of the fetus. In this paper, a review of these various models, with particular emphasis on the value of the model in the testing and evaluation of vaccines against congenital CMV, is provided. Recent exciting developments and advances in these various models are summarized, and recommendations offered for high-priority areas for future study.
Cytomegalovirus; Animal cytomegalovirus models; Guinea pig CMV; Rat CMV; Murine CMV; Rhesus CMV; Porcine CMV; Cytomegalovirus vaccine; Live; attenuated CMV vaccines; CMV pentameric complex; Guinea pig model; placenta; immune modulation
We have determined the complete genome sequence of the Maastricht strain of rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV). The RCMV genome has a length of 229,896 bp and is arranged as a single unique sequence flanked by 504-bp terminal direct repeats. RCMV was found to have counterparts of all but one of the open reading frames (ORFs) that are conserved between murine CMV (MCMV) and human CMV (HCMV). Like HCMV, RCMV lacks homologs of the genes belonging to the MCMV m02 glycoprotein gene family. However, RCMV contains 15 ORFs with homology to members of the MCMV m145 glycoprotein gene family. Four ORFs are predicted to encode homologs of host proteins; R33 and R78 both putatively encode G protein-coupled receptors, whereas r144 and r131 encode homologs of major histocompatibility class I heavy chains and CC chemokines, respectively. An intriguing feature of the RCMV genome is the presence of an ORF, r127, with similarity to the rep gene of parvoviruses as well as ORF U94 of human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and HHV-6B. Counterparts of these ORFs have not been found in the other sequenced herpesviruses.
The lytic replication cycle of herpesviruses can be divided into the following three steps: (i) circularization, in which, after infection, the termini of the linear double-stranded viral genome are fused; (ii) replication, in which the circular DNA serves as template for DNA replication, which generates large DNA concatemers; and (iii) maturation, in which the concatemeric viral DNA is processed into unit-length genomes, which are packaged into capsids. Sequences at the termini of the linear virion DNA are thought to play a key role in both genome circularization and maturation. To investigate the mechanism of these processes in the replication of rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV), we cloned, sequenced, and characterized the genomic termini of this betaherpesvirus. Both RCMV genomic termini were found to contain a single copy of a direct terminal repeat (TR). The TR sequence is 504 bp in length, has a high GC content (76%), and is not repeated at internal sites within the RCMV genome. The TR comprises several small internal direct repeats as well as two sequences which are homologous to herpesvirus pac-1 and pac-2 sites, respectively. The organization of the RCMV TR is unique among cytomegaloviruses with respect to the position of the pac sequences: pac-1 is located near the left end of the TR, whereas pac-2 is present near the right end. Both RCMV DNA termini carry an extension of a single nucleotide at the 3' end. Since these nucleotides are complementary, circularization of the viral genome is likely to occur via a simple ligation reaction.
The rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) R78 gene belongs to an uncharacterized class of viral G protein-coupled receptor (GCR) genes. The predicted amino acid sequence of the R78 open reading frame (ORF) shows 25 and 20% similarity with the gene products of murine cytomegalovirus M78 and human cytomegalovirus UL78, respectively. The R78 gene is transcribed throughout the early and late phases of infection in rat embryo fibroblasts (REF) in vitro. Transcription of R78 was found to result in three different mRNAs: (i) a 1.8-kb mRNA containing the R78 sequence, (ii) a 3.7-kb mRNA containing both R77 and R78 sequences, and (iii) a 5.7-kb mRNA containing at least ORF R77 and ORF R78 sequences. To investigate the function of the R78 gene, we generated two different recombinant virus strains: an RCMV R78 null mutant (RCMVΔR78a) and an RCMV mutant encoding a GCR from which the putative intracellular C terminus has been deleted (RCMVΔR78c). These recombinant viruses replicated with a 10- to 100-fold-lower efficiency than wild-type (wt) virus in vitro. Interestingly, unlike wt virus-infected REF, REF infected with the recombinants develop a syncytium-like appearance. A striking difference between wt and recombinant viruses was also seen in vivo: a considerably higher survival was seen among recombinant virus-infected rats than among RCMV-infected rats. We conclude that the RCMV R78 gene encodes a novel GCR-like polypeptide that plays an important role in both RCMV replication in vitro and the pathogenesis of viral infection in vivo.