Immunocompromised patients with disseminated human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection have circulating PMN carrying HCMV pp65 (antigenemia), infectious virus (viremia), and viral DNA (leukoDNAemia). Because HCMV does not fully replicate in PMN, it is generally hypothesized that virions and viral materials are taken up by phagocytosis from fully permissive HCMV-infected endothelial cells. However, no experimental evidence has ever been provided for these PMN-endothelium interactions. PMN from 11 donors were cocultured with endothelial cells infected with an endothelium-adapted HCMV strain and with human fibroblasts infected with low-passaged clinical and laboratory-adapted HCMV strains. pp65-positive PMN were detected after coculture with both HCMV-infected endothelial and fibroblast cells, provided that wild and not laboratory-adapted strains were used. In addition, cocultured PMN carried infectious virus as demonstrated by virus isolation and presence of complete virus particles by electron microscopy. Moreover, high levels of viral DNA were consistently detected by quantitative PCR in cocultured PMN. Thus, we have generated in vitro the three most important viral parameters detected in patients with disseminated HCMV infection (antigenemia, viremia, and leukoDNAemia). The failure of laboratory-adapted HCMV strain to induce this phenomenon demonstrates that important modifications have occurred in attenuated viral strains affecting basic biological functions.
M G Revello, E Percivalle, E Arbustini, R Pardi, S Sozzani, G Gerna