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Trends Microbiol. 2002 Jul;10(7):332-9.

Immunomodulation by cytomegaloviruses: manipulative strategies beyond evasion.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, D347 Fairchild Science Building, 299 Campus Drive, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5124, USA.


Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) remains the major infectious cause of birth defects as well as an important opportunistic pathogen. Individuals infected with CMV mount a strong immune response that suppresses persistent viral replication and maintains life-long latency. Loss of immune control opens the way to virus reactivation and disease. The large number of immunomodulatory functions encoded by CMV increases the efficiency of infection, dissemination, reactivation and persistent infection in hosts with intact immune systems and could contribute to virulence in immunocompromised hosts. These functions modulate both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune response and appear to target cellular rather than humoral responses preferentially. CMV encodes a diverse arsenal of proteins focused on altering and/or mimicking: (1) classical and non-classical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) protein function; (2) leukocyte migration, activation and cytokine responses; and (3) host cell susceptibility to apoptosis. Evidence that the host evolves mechanisms to counteract virus immune modulation is also accumulating. Although immune evasion is certainly one clear goal of the virus, the pro-inflammatory impact of certain viral functions suggests that increased inflammation benefits viral dissemination. The ability of such viral functions to successfully 'face off' against the host immune system ensures the success of this pathogen in the human population and could provide key insights into disease mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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