Endothelial cells (ECs) are a site of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) productive replication, haematogenous dissemination and persistence, and are assumed to play a critical role in the development of HCMV-associated vascular diseases. Although early reports have shown the presence of HCMV antigens and DNA in lymphoid tissues, the ability of HCMV to infect lymphatic ECs (LECs) has remained unaddressed due to the lack of a suitable system. This study provided evidence that a clinical isolate of HCMV (retaining its natural endotheliotropism) was able to productively infect purified lymph node-derived LECs and that it dysregulated the expression of several LEC genes involved in the inflammatory response to viral infection. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of virus-free supernatants from HCMV-infected LEC cultures revealed virus-induced secretion of several cytokines, chemokines and growth factors, many of which are involved in the regulation of EC physiological properties. Indeed, functional assays demonstrated that the secretome produced by HCMV-infected LECs stimulated angiogenesis in both LECs and blood ECs, and that neutralization of either interleukin (IL)-6 or granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in the secretome caused the loss of its angiogenic properties. The involvement of IL-6 and GM-CSF in the HCMV-mediated angiogenesis was further supported by the finding that the recombinant cytokines reproduced the angiogenic effects of the HCMV secretome. These findings suggest that HCMV induces haemangiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis through an indirect mechanism that relies on the stimulation of IL-6 and GM-CSF secretion from infected cells.


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vol. , part 3, pp. 650 - 660

HCMV VR1814 infection rates in LECs infected at an m.o.i. of 3 [PDF](72 KB)


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