Myeloid Dendritic Cells Repress Human Cytomegalovirus Gene Expression and Spread by Releasing Interferon-Unrelated Soluble Antiviral Factors

J Virol. 2017 Dec 14;92(1):e01138-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01138-17. Print 2018 Jan 1.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a betaherpesvirus that latently infects most adult humans worldwide and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised hosts. Latent human CMV (HCMV) is believed to reside in precursors of myeloid-lineage leukocytes and monocytes, which give rise to macrophages and dendritic cells (DC). We report here that human monocyte-derived DC (mo-DC) suppress HCMV infection in coculture with infected fibroblast target cells in a manner dependent on the effector-to-target ratio. Intriguingly, optimal activation of mo-DC was achieved under coculture conditions and not by direct infection with HCMV, implying that mo-DC may recognize unique molecular patterns on, or within, infected fibroblasts. We show that HCMV is controlled by secreted factors that act by priming defenses in target cells rather than by direct viral neutralization, but we excluded a role for interferons (IFNs) in this control. The expression of lytic viral genes in infected cells and the progression of infection were significantly slowed, but this effect was reversible, indicating that the control of infection depended on the transient induction of antiviral effector molecules in target cells. Using immediate early or late-phase reporter HCMVs, we show that soluble factors secreted in the cocultures suppress HCMV replication at both stages of the infection and that their antiviral effects are robust and comparable in numerous batches of mo-DC as well as in primary fibroblasts and stromal cells.IMPORTANCE Human cytomegalovirus is a widespread opportunistic pathogen that can cause severe disease and complications in vulnerable individuals. This includes newborn children, HIV AIDS patients, and transplant recipients. Although the majority of healthy humans carry this virus throughout their lives without symptoms, it is not exactly clear which tissues in the body are the main reservoirs of latent virus infection or how the delicate balance between the virus and the immune system is maintained over an individual's lifetime. Here, for the first time, we provide evidence for a novel mechanism of direct virus control by a subset of human innate immune cells called dendritic cells, which are regarded as a major site of virus latency and reactivation. Our findings may have important implications in HCMV disease prevention as well as in development of novel therapeutic approaches.

Keywords: antiviral agents; cytomegalovirus; dendritic cells; fluorescent image analysis; video microscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / immunology
  • Antiviral Agents / metabolism*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cytomegalovirus / genetics*
  • Cytomegalovirus / physiology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / physiology
  • Dendritic Cells / virology*
  • Fibroblasts / virology*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interferons / immunology
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid Cells / virology
  • Solubility
  • Virus Activation
  • Virus Latency


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferons