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Transplantation. 2000 Mar 27;69(6):1160-8.

Cytomegalovirus infection of vascular cells induces expression of pro-inflammatory adhesion molecules by paracrine action of secreted interleukin-1beta.

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Department of Cardiology, University of Heidelberg, Germany.



Infection with human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been associated with vascular disease processes such as vascular allograft rejection, transplantation vasculopathy, restenosis after angioplasty, and native atherosclerosis. To elucidate underlying pathomechanisms, the effect of acute HCMV infection on the expression of pro-inflammatory adhesion molecules on human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and human vascular smooth muscle cells (hvSMC) was examined.


Cells were infected in vitro with clinical strains of HCMV and the resulting changes in adhesion molecule expression were quantified by histology and flow cytometric analysis. On HUVEC, surface expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and E-selectin was induced de novo on HCMV infection and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression was increased by >200%. On hvSMC, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 surface expression induced de novo, although vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and E-selectin were not changed. Expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II, lymphocyte-function associated antigen 3 (LFA-3; CD58), and CD40 was not altered by HCMV infection in either cell type. In partially infected cultures, up-regulation of surface molecules also occurred on noninfected cells, suggesting a paracrine mechanism via a soluble factor. Expression of surface molecules could be enhanced in noninfected HUVEC and hvSMC by incubation with virus-free conditioned supernatant from HCMV-infected cells or by coincubation in transwells with infected cells. The responsible agent could be identified as IL- interleukin- (IL) 1beta by detection of de novo secretion of IL-1beta by HCMV-infected cells and by prevention of adhesion molecule up-regulation after addition of an IL-1-converting enzyme inhibitor or IL-1 receptor antagonist. Surface molecule up-regulation could be suppressed by UV inactivation of virus, but not by treatment of cell cultures with inhibitors of viral replication (ganciclovir).


We propose that HCMV infection induces IL-1beta release and subsequent up-regulation of pro-inflammatory adhesion molecules on noninfected neighboring cells through a paracrine mechanism. This may lead to local potentiation of the inflammatory effects of HCMV infection, not amenable to current therapeutic antiviral strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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