Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a ubiquitous pathogen with a predilection for dendritic cells (DCs). Latently infected myeloid progenitor cells develop into actively infected DCs with impaired functionality, allowing dissemination and transfer of virus throughout the body. However, the viral genes expressed in DCs and their effect on the cellular transcriptome are currently unknown. We investigated human DCs infected with HCMV by using SuperSAGE, allowing us to analyse the transcriptomes of both host and pathogen simultaneously. A small number of viral transcripts were expressed strongly and rapidly post-infection. However, only two were of the immediate-early class, including one with an unknown function. The viral genes expressed reflected the cellular milieu, with the majority having a known or suspected immune-evasion function. Several viral genes identified lack a known function and may fulfil specialized roles within DCs. The cellular response to infection included a strong interferon response, induction of cytokine and anti-apoptotic genes and alterations in genes involved in antigen presentation. We demonstrated the validity of our approach by showing that novel changes first seen in the transcriptome were reflected in the phenotype of HCMV-infected DCs. Delineation of the transcriptional changes underlying the phenotype of HCMV-infected DCs allows a better understanding of how a herpesvirus infects DCs and pinpoints linkages between phenotype and specific viral genes.


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vol. , part 9, pp. 2221 – 2233

Primers used for RT-PCR and qRT-PCR.

Abundantly expressed cellular genes.

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