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Cytomegalovirus Strain TB40/E Restrictions and Adaptations to Growth in ARPE-19 Epithelial Cells.

  • Author(s): Vo, Mai
  • Aguiar, Alexis
  • McVoy, Michael A
  • Hertel, Laura
  • et al.

Despite displaying broad tropism in vivo, human cytomegalovirus (CMV) contained in bodily fluids replicates inefficiently in most cultured cell types except fibroblasts. As propagation in fibroblasts leads to the accumulation of genomic changes, a number of strains were generated by serial passaging on endothelial cells. One of these, TB40/E, was shown to contain a mixture of genetically distinct virus variants, and to retain tropism for fibroblasts, endothelial and epithelial cells. Cloning of an endotheliotropic subpopulation produced the TB40-BAC4 variant, extensively used in CMV tropism studies. Because TB40-BAC4 represents only one of the different variants comprising TB40/E, we generated a series of epithelial-cell adapted stocks derived from a TB40/E mixed stock, rather than from TB40-BAC4. Within two passages on ARPE-19 cells, virus populations were produced with the ability to enter and initiate replication with similar efficiencies in both epithelial cells and fibroblasts. Although the ability to release progeny also increased, cell-free virus yields from ARPE-19 cells remained consistently two to three-logs lower than from fibroblasts, hinting at the existence of a post-entry and post-genome synthesis block in epithelial cells. Multinucleated syncytia also rapidly appeared exclusively in ARPE-19 cell cultures, where their numbers and dimensions increased with virus passage. Irrespective of the number of infected nuclei comprising each syncytium, however, only one cytoplasmic virion assembly compartment was consistently observed, leading us to speculate that improvements in entry efficiency associated with ARPE-19 cell adaptation lead to the development of syncytia, which may negatively affect progeny release by limiting the amount of resources available to maturing virions.

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