Experimental human cytomegalovirus latency in CD14+ monocytes

Danna Hargett, Thomas E. Shenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


CD14+ monocytes are a reservoir for latent human cytomegalovirus, and virus replication is reactivated during their differentiation to macrophages or dendritic cells. It has not been clear whether the virus can establish latency upon direct infection of monocytes or whether it must first become quiescent in a progenitor cell that subsequently differentiates to generate a monocyte. We report that infection of primary human monocytes with a clinical strain of human cytomegalovirus exhibits the hallmarks of latency. We established conditions for culturing monocytes that prevent differentiation for at least 25 d, as evidenced by cell surface marker expression. Infection of these monocytes with the FIX clinical strain resulted in transient accumulation of many viral lytic RNAs and sustained expression of four previously described latency-associated transcripts. The amount of viral DNA remained constant after infection, and cell surface and total HLA-DR proteins were substantially reduced on a continuing basis after infection. When treated with cytokine mixtures that stimulate differentiation to a macrophage or dendritic cell phenotype, infected monocytes reactivated virus replication and produced infectious progeny. Treatment of infected monocytes with IL-6 alone also was sufficient for reactivation, and the particles produced after exposure to this cytokine were about fivefold more infectious than virions produced by other treatments. We propose that in vivo microenvironments influence not only the efficiency of reactivation but also the infectivity of the virions produced from latently infected monocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20039-20044
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 16 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Antigen presentation immunology
  • Cell culture
  • Herpesvirus
  • Myeloid biology


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