Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a pathogenic beta-herpesvirus that establishes a lifelong infection in hosts. It causes significant morbidity and mortality in the immunocompromised and is associated with a range of birth defects following congenital infection. Current therapeutic approaches that target key viral proteins are toxic and antiviral drug resistance is common. Thus, targeting host genes and cellular pathways essential for HCMV infection offers an alternative strategy for the development of antivirals. Here we show that host oxidative/nitrosative stress responses to CMV are critical for virus replication. Oxidative/nitrosative stress occurs due to accumulation of reactive oxygen/nitrogen species (ROS/RNS). Using a range of ROS/RNS scavengers, we identified that peroxynitrite, a powerful oxidant and nitrating agent, dramatically promoted virus replication in both and models of CMV infection. HCMV rapidly induced production of intracellular peroxynitrite upon infection. Inhibition of peroxynitrite within the first 24 hours alleviates efficient HCMV infection in both cell-free and cell-associated infection systems, indicating that peroxynitrite may influence pathways necessary for HCMV entry and/or replication. Furthermore, peroxynitrite inhibition also inhibited HCMV reactivation from latency. Interestingly, the neurotransmitter and naturally-occurring peroxynitrite antagonist 5-hydroxytryptamine, commonly known as serotonin, also impinged on HCMV-induced peroxynitrite production and exhibited anti-HCMV activity. Thus, overall, our study demonstrates a novel role for intracellular peroxynitrite in CMV pathogenesis and implies that peroxynitrite could be targeted as a novel approach to inhibiting CMV infection.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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