Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) causes significant morbidity in the immunocompromised host. Following primary infection, the virus establishes latent infection in progenitor cells of the myeloid lineage. These cells exhibit limited viral gene transcription and no evidence of de novo virion production. It is well recognized that differentiation of latently infected myeloid progenitor cells to dendritic or macrophage-like cells permits viral reactivation in vitro. This has been used to support the concept that viral reactivation in HCMV carriers routinely occurs from such terminally differentiated myeloid cells in vivo. However, to date this has not been shown for in vivo-differentiated macrophages. This study is the first to demonstrate that alveolar macrophages from HCMV carriers express immediate early lytic genes and produce infectious virus. This supports the view, until now based on in vitro data, that terminally differentiated myeloid cells in vivo are sites of HCMV reactivation and potential centers of viral dissemination in latently infected individuals with no evidence of virus disease or dissemination.
Keywords: human cytomegalovirus; macrophages; reactivation.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.