A locally restricted human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) reactivation in the mammary gland commonly occurs in nearly every IgG-seropositive breastfeeding mother. This unique phenomenon can therefore be used to study the reactivation process in an immunocompetent healthy host. Breast milk contains a variety of immunoactive compounds, including immune cells, antibodies, growth factors, and cytokines supporting the newborn's immature immune system. To characterize the impact of HCMV reactivation on breast milk cytokines, we analyzed longitudinal breast milk samples of four IgG-seropositive and three IgG-seronegative mothers of preterm infants using Proximity Extension Assay (PEA) technology (Olink Proteomics, Uppsala, Sweden). Cytokine profiling revealed elevated cytokine levels in IgG-seropositive mothers' milk whey. Reactivating mothers showed higher levels of CC-chemokines (MCP-2, CCL19, and CCL20) and CXC-chemokines (IL-8, CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11), such as the proinflammatory cytokine IL-17C, glycoprotein CD5, and TNFSF14. HCMV reactivation seems to influence the cytokine profile in human breast milk. This work could open the door for further studies analyzing distinct relations of the cytokine network as well as phenotypical and functional T cell properties in background of HCMV DNA dynamics in early lactation.
Keywords: CMV; breastfeeding; chemokines; lactation; neonates.