Rat cytomegalovirus major immediate-early enhancer switching results in altered growth characteristics

Gordon R. Sandford, Lorine E. Brock, Sebastian Voigt, Craig M. Forester, William H. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It has been hypothesized that the major immediate-early (MIE) enhancer of cytomegalovirus (CMV) is important in determining virus tropism and latency because of its essential role in initiating the cascade of early gene expression necessary for virus replication. Although rat CMV (RCMV) and murine CMV (MCMV) exhibit extreme species specificity in vivo, they differ in their ability to replicate in tissue culture. MCMV can replicate in a rat embryo fibroblast (REF) cell line while RCMV does not grow in murine fibroblasts. The tropism is not due to a block in virus entry into the cell. We have constructed a recombinant RCMV in which the RCMV MIE enhancer bas been replaced with that of MCMV. Growth of the recombinant virus in tissue culture remains restricted to rat cells, suggesting that other viral and/or host factors are more important in determining in vitro tropism. Unlike findings using recombinant MCMV in which the human CMV (HCMV) MIE enhancer substitutes for the native one (A. Angulo, M. Messerle, U. H. Koszinowski, and P. Ghazal, J. Virol. 72:8502-8509, 1998), infection with our recombinant virus at a low multiplicity of infection resulted in a substantial decrease in virus replication. This occurred despite comparable or increased MIE transcription from the recombinant virus. In vivo experiments showed that the recombinant virus replicates normally in the spleen during acute infection. Notably, the recombinant virus appears to be deficient in spreading to the salivary gland, suggesting a role for the MIE enhancer in tropism for certain tissues involved in virus dissemination. Four months after infection, recombinant virus with the foreign MIE enhancer was reactivated from spleen explants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5076-5083
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 28 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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