Tracheal organ cultures infected with mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) were shown to produce virus for up to 180 days with virus replication primarily in epithelial cells. Persistent virus infections were established in tracheal organ cultures from both MCMV-susceptible and MCMV-resistant strains of mice. In acutely infected tracheal organ cultures, cellular DNA synthesis appeared to precede the production of significant amounts of virus antigens and the release of virus into culture fluids. Since persistently infected tracheal organ cultures continued to synthesize cellular DNA, the results suggest that host cell turnover may continually renew the population of MCMV-susceptible cells. The results suggest a possible mechanism for virus persistence in tracheal organ culture based on continuing serial infection of newly susceptible cells combined with prolonged release of virus from infected cells.


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