Send to

Choose Destination
Genes Immun. 2002 Aug;3(5):250-62.

Genetic control of innate immune responses against cytomegalovirus: MCMV meets its match.

Author information

Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 8M5, Canada.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a widespread pathogen that is responsible for severe disease in immunocompromised individuals and probably, associated with vascular disease in the general population. There is increasing evidence that cells of the innate immune system play a key role in controlling this important pathogen. This is particularly evident in the experimental murine CMV (MCMV) model of infection which has revealed an important role for natural killer (NK) cells in controlling early viral replication after infection with MCMV. In this model, different strains of inbred mice exhibit striking differences in their level of susceptibility to MCMV infection. Genetic studies, performed almost 10 years ago, revealed that this pattern of susceptibility/resistance can be attributed to a single genetic locus termed Cmv1 and recently several groups that have been working on the mapping and identification of Cmv1 have met with success. Interestingly, Cmv1 is allelic to a member of the Ly49 gene family, which encode activating or inhibitory transmembrane receptors present on the surface of NK cells. All Ly49 receptors characterized to date interact with MHC class I molecules on potential target cells, resulting in the accumulation of signals to the NK to either 'kill' or 'ignore' the cell based upon the repertoire of MHC class I molecules expressed. The identification of Cmv1 as Ly49H, a stimulatory member of the Ly49 family, adds an interesting twist to the Ly49 story. Although the ligand of Ly49H is not yet known, there is already compelling evidence that the ligand is upregulated on virally infected cells, resulting in specific activation of Ly49H-expressing NK cells. This review provides an historical perspective of the MCMV infection model from its inception to the discovery of the gene responsible for the phenotype and provides a basis for further experiments aimed at understanding the role of NK cells, in general, and Ly49H, in particular, in mediating resistance to cytomegalovirus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center