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J Immunol. 2003 Jul 1;171(1):438-46.

Persistent infection of human microvascular endothelial cells by coxsackie B viruses induces increased expression of adhesion molecules.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine and Center of Experimental Medicine (CeRMS), University of Torino, Torino, Italy.


Numerous studies indicate that enteroviruses, such as the Coxsackievirus (CV) group, are linked to autoimmune diseases. Virus tropism and tissue access are modulated by vascular endothelial cells (ECs), mainly at the level of the microvasculature. Data on the permissiveness of ECs to CV are, however, scanty and derived from studies on large vessel ECs. To examine the susceptibility of microvascular ECs to infection of group B CV (CVB), human dermal microvascular ECs (HMEC-1) were infected with three CVB strains, and the immunological phenotype of the infected cells was analyzed. All CVB persistently infected the EC cultures without producing overt cytopathic effects. Infected ECs retained endothelial characteristics. Release of infectious particles in cell supernatants persisted for up to 3 mo of culture. Infection up-regulated expression of the adhesion molecules ICAM-1 and VCAM-1, with the highest values detected during the first 30 days of infection (p < 0.05 vs uninfected HMEC-1). CVB infection increased production of the proinflammatory cytokines, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-alpha, which may account for the enhanced expression of adhesion molecules. Parallel infection of macrovascular HUVEC had less evident effects on induction of ICAM-1 and did not significantly increase expression of VCAM-1. Moreover, mononuclear cell adhesion to CVB-infected HMEC-1 monolayers was increased, compared with uninfected monolayers. These results provide evidence that small vessel ECs can harbor a persistent viral infection, resulting in quantitative modification of adhesion molecule expression, which may contribute to the selective recruitment of subsets of leukocytes during inflammatory immune responses. Furthermore, our data confirm that the behavior against a viral challenge of ECs in large vessels and microvessels may differ.

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