Human cytomegalovirus tropism for endothelial/epithelial cells: scientific background and clinical implications

Rev Med Virol. 2010 May;20(3):136-55. doi: 10.1002/rmv.645.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been routinely isolated from and propagated in vitro in human embryonic lung fibroblast (HELF) cell cultures, while in vivo it is known to infect predominantly endothelial and epithelial cells. In recent years, genetic determinants of the HCMV tropism for endothelial/epithelial cells were identified in the UL131A/UL130/UL128 locus of HCMV genome of wild-type strains. UL131A-UL128 gene products form a complex with glycoprotein H (gH) and L (gL) resulting in a gH/gL/UL131A-UL128 complex that is required for HCMV entry into endothelial/epithelial cells. In contrast, virus entry into fibroblasts has its genetic determinants in the complex gH/gL/gO (or gH/gL). During primary HCMV infection, the neutralising antibody response measured in endothelial cells (EC) is potent, occurs very early and is directed mostly against combinations of two or three gene products of the UL131A-128 locus. On the contrary, neutralising antibodies measured in fibroblasts appear late, are relatively weak in potency and are directed against gH and gB. The T-cell immune response to UL131A-UL128 gene products remains to be investigated. Recently, a role has been proposed for neutralising antibody in conferring prevention/protection against HCMV infection/disease in pregnant women with primary HCMV infection. However, the level of cooperation between humoral immunity and the well-established T-cell protection remains to be defined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus / physiology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology*
  • Endothelial Cells / virology*
  • Epithelial Cells / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Viral Proteins / immunology
  • Viral Tropism*
  • Virus Internalization


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Viral Proteins