Seminal plasma and semen amyloids enhance cytomegalovirus infection in cell culture

J Virol. 2013 Dec;87(23):12583-91. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02083-13. Epub 2013 Sep 11.


Among the modes of transmission available to the cytomegalovirus (CMV) is sexual transmission, primarily via semen. Both male-to-female (M-F) and male-to-male (M-M) sexual transmission significantly contribute toward the spread of CMV infections in the global population. Semen plays an important role in carrying the viral particle that invades the vaginal or rectal mucosa, thereby initiating viral replication. Both semen and seminal plasma (SP) can enhance HIV-1 infection in cell culture, and two amyloid fibrils, semen-derived enhancer of viral infection (SEVI) and amyloids derived from the semenogelins (SEM amyloids), have been identified as seminal factors sufficient to enhance HIV-1 infection (J. Munch et al., Cell 131:1059-1071, 2007; N. R. Roan et al., Cell Host Microbe 10:541-550, 2011; F. Arnold et al., J. Virol. 86:1244-1249, 2012). Whether SP, SEVI, or SEM amyloids can enhance other viral infections has not been extensively examined. In this study, we found that SP, SEVI, and SEM amyloids strongly enhance both human CMV (HCMV) and murine CMV infection in cell culture. SEVI and SEM amyloids increased infection rates by >10-fold, as determined by both flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. Viral replication was increased by 50- to 100-fold. Moreover, viral growth curve assays showed that SP, SEVI, and SEM amyloids sped up the kinetics of CMV replication such that the virus reached its replicative peak more quickly. Finally, we discovered that SEM amyloids and SEVI counteracted the effect of anti-gH in protecting against CMV infection. Collectively, the data suggest that semen enhances CMV infection through interactions between semen amyloid fibrils and viral particles, and these interactions may prevent HCMV from being neutralized by anti-gH antibody.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytomegalovirus / genetics
  • Cytomegalovirus / physiology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / metabolism*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / transmission
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Semen / metabolism*
  • Semen / virology*
  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Internalization
  • Virus Replication


  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins