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Mol Immunol. 2011 May;48(9-10):1160-7. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2011.02.010. Epub 2011 Mar 31.

Human cytomegalovirus decreases constitutive transcription of MHC class II genes in mature Langerhans cells by reducing CIITA transcript levels.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Program in Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) productively infects CD34(+) progenitor-derived, mature Langerhans-type dendritic cells (matLC) and reduces surface expression of MHC class II complexes (MHC II) by increasing intracellular retention of these molecules. To determine whether HCMV also inhibits MHC II expression by other mechanisms, we assessed mRNA levels of the class II transcriptional regulator, CIITA, and several of its target genes in infected matLC. Levels of CIITA, HLA-DRA (DRA) and DRB transcripts, and new DR protein synthesis were compared in mock-infected and HCMV-infected cells by quantitative PCR and pulse-chase immunoprecipitation analyses, respectively. CIITA mRNA levels were significantly lower in HCMV-infected matLC as compared to mock-infected cells. When assessed in the presence of Actinomycin D, the stability of CIITA transcripts was not diminished by HCMV. Analysis of promoter-specific CIITA isoforms revealed that types I, III and IV all were decreased by HCMV, a result that differs from changes after incubation of these cells with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Exposure to UV-inactivated virus failed to reduce CIITA mRNA levels, implicating de novo viral gene expression in this effect. HCMV-infected matLC also expressed lower levels of DR transcripts and reduced DR protein synthesis rates compared to mock-infected matLC. In summary, we demonstrate that HCMV infection of a human dendritic cell subset inhibits constitutive CIITA expression, most likely at the transcriptional level, resulting in reduced MHC II biosynthesis. We suggest this represents a new mechanism of modulation of mature LC by HCMV.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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