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Virchows Arch. 2000 Jun;436(6):539-52.

Cytomegalovirus genome and the immediate-early antigen in cells of different layers of human aorta.

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Institute of Experimental Cardiology, Cardiology Research Center, Moscow, Russia.


A number of data suggest that reactivation of cytomegalovirus (CMV) latent in arterial wall cells may contribute to atherogenesis; however, there is no direct evidence available. To address this issue, we have examined, using in situ hybridization or immunohistochemical staining, the frequency of occurrence of cells containing viral genome and of those expressing the IE 70 viral antigen in the endothelial layer and in deeper layers of human aortas with or without visible atherosclerotic lesions. Using endothelial cell cultures or tissue endothelial preparations, we found CMV-hybridizing endothelial cells in 6 of 8 grossly normal aortas and in 16 of 18 lesioned aortas. Antigen-positive endothelial cells were detected in 1 of 5 grossly normal vessels and in 6 of 7 lesioned vessels. Infected endothelial cells were abundant in areas adjacent to orifices of intercostal arteries of grossly normal aortas and in fatty spots of lesioned aortas, but no infected endothelial cells were observed in most plaques examined. In paraffin sections of grossly normal vessels, we detected CMV genome in cells adjacent to lumen and in cells randomly scattered through subendothelial intima and the media; however, no immunoreactive viral protein was found in the same tissue samples. In sections of lesioned vessels, clusters of CMV-hybridizing cells were found in the media in addition to infected cells randomly scattered through the intima and the media. In these samples of lesioned vessels, viral antigen was detected in cells adjacent to lumen and in cells clustered at the intima/media border. We found antigen-positive cells in grossly normal areas of lesioned aortas and in fatty lesions, but not in plaques of the same vessels. The data suggest that accumulation of the immediate-early CMV antigen in cells of endothelial layer and development of antigen-positive cell clusters in deeper layers of vascular wall accompany early atherogenic events in human aorta.

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