Spatial patterns of protein expression in focal infections of human cytomegalovirus.Biotechnol Bioeng. 2006 Apr 20; 93(6):1029-39.BB
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a medically significant human pathogen that infects a wide range of cell and tissue types. During infection, HCMV activates a variety of signal transduction pathways that induce profound changes in cellular processes and dramatically affect cellular gene expression patterns. To better define how these virus-host interactions affect the local microenvironment and influence the spatial and temporal spread of HCMV, we initiated HCMV focal infections on normal human dermal fibroblast monolayers and monitored viral gene expression patterns and infection spread over 45 days. To establish baseline temporal measurements of HCMV infection and spread in cell monolayers, we characterized the influence of three experimental variables on viral gene expression: cell plating density, the presence of serum, and neutralization of cellular antiviral responses with an antibody against interferon-beta. We found that high cell plating density or the inclusion of serum correlated with enhanced HCMV infection spread. Dramatic differences in the expression pattern of the viral immediate early 2 (IE2) gene were observed under these conditions as compared to low plating density or the absence of serum. In the latter case round, uniform foci were observed with a clear wave of IE2 expression visible in advance of a late stage viral protein, envelope glycoprotein B. By contrast, larger irregular foci with arms of IE2 expression were observed in the presence of serum. Addition of the antibody had little effect on the rate of spread, which is consistent with the knowledge that HCMV represses antiviral responses during infection. This experimental system provides a useful means to visualize and quantify complex virus-host interactions.