Stimulatory Effect of CMV Immunoglobulin on Innate Immunity and on the Immunogenicity of CMV Antigens

Transplant Direct. 2021 Oct 22;7(11):e781. doi: 10.1097/TXD.0000000000001236. eCollection 2021 Nov.


Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) immunoglobulin (CMVIG) is used for the prophylaxis of CMV infection after transplantation. Beyond providing passive CMV-specific immunity, CMVIG exerts enhancing and suppressive immunomodulatory functions. Although the anti-inflammatory activities of CMVIG have been extensively documented, its immunostimulatory activities remain poorly characterized.

Methods: This exploratory study analyzed the capacity of CMVIG to modulate cell-mediated innate and adaptive immunities in vitro on freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of CMV-seropositive and -seronegative healthy individuals, using interferon-γ (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot and intracellular cytokine staining assays.

Results: We showed that CMVIG treatment increases the number of IFN-γ-secreting PBMCs of both CMV-seronegative and -seropositive individuals, indicating a global stimulatory effect on innate immune cells. Indeed, CMVIG significantly increased the frequency of natural killer cells producing the T helper cell 1-type cytokines tumor necrosis factor and IFN-γ. This was associated with the induction of interleukin-12-expressing monocytes and the activation of cluster of differentiation (CD) 4+ and CD8+ T cells, as measured by the expression of tumor necrosis factor and IFN-γ. Interestingly, stimulation of PBMCs from CMV-seropositive subjects with CMVIG-opsonized CMV antigens (phosphoprotein 65, CMV lysate) enhanced CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell activation, suggesting that CMVIG promotes the immunogenicity of CMV antigens.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that CMVIG can stimulate effector cells of both innate and adaptive immunities and promote the immunogenicity of CMV antigens. These immunostimulatory properties might contribute to the protective effect against CMV infection mediated by CMVIG.