Identification and Characterization of Epithelial Cell-Derived Dense Bodies Produced upon Cytomegalovirus Infection

Vaccines (Basel). 2022 Aug 12;10(8):1308. doi: 10.3390/vaccines10081308.


Dense bodies (DB) are complex, noninfectious particles produced during CMVinfection containing envelope and tegument proteins that may be ideal candidates as vaccines. Although DB were previously described in fibroblasts, no evidence of DB formation has been shown after propagating CMV in epithelial cells. In the present study, both fibroblast MRC-5 and epithelial ARPE-19 cells were used to study DB production during CMV infection. We demonstrate the formation of epithelial cell-derived DB, mostly located as cytoplasmic inclusions in the perinuclear area of the infected cell. DB were gradient-purified, and the nature of the viral particles was confirmed using CMV-specific immunelabeling. Epithelial cell-derived DB had higher density and more homogeneous size (200-300 nm) compared to fibroblast-derived DB (100-600 nm).In agreement with previous results characterizing DB from CMV-infected fibroblasts, the pp65 tegument protein was predominant in the epithelial cell-derived DB. Our results also suggest that epithelial cells had more CMV capsids in the cytoplasm and had spherical bodies compatible with nucleus condensation (pyknosis) in cells undergoing apoptosis that were not detected in MRC-5 infected cells at the tested time post-infection. Our results demonstrate the formation of DB in CMV-infected ARPE-19 epithelial cells that may be suitable candidate to develop a multiprotein vaccine with antigenic properties similar to that of the virions while not including the viral genome.

Keywords: TEM; cytomegalovirus; dense bodies; epithelial cells; vaccine design.