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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Oct;1813(10):1872-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2011.07.003. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

The enhanced host-cell permissiveness of human cytomegalovirus is mediated by the Ras signaling pathway.

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Department of Clinical Virology, University of Crete, Greece.


Human cytomegalovirus utilizes cellular signal transduction pathways to activate viral or cellular transcription factors involved in the control of viral gene expression and DNA replication. In the present study, we demonstrate that Harvey-ras-transformed cells show increased permissiveness to human cytomegalovirus when compared to their parental non-transformed cells. Both the progeny viral yield and the protein levels were elevated in the human cytomegalovirus-infected Harvey-ras-transformed cells requiring active viral gene replication, as shown by the infection with UV-inactivated human cytomegalovirus. Inhibition of Ras or of key molecules of the Ras pathway, effectively suppressed viral infection in the Harvey-ras-transformed cells. On a cellular level, the human cytomegalovirus-infected Harvey-ras-transformed cells formed larger cellular foci, which were significantly higher in number, compared to the uninfected cells and preferentially recruited human cytomegalovirus virions, thereby incriminating human cytomegalovirus infection for the increased transformation of these cells. Furthermore, proliferation assays revealed a higher rate for the human cytomegalovirus-infected Harvey-ras-transformed cells compared to mock-infected cells, whereas human cytomegalovirus infection had no considerable effect on the proliferation of the non-transformed cells. Higher susceptibility to apoptosis was also detected in the human cytomegalovirus-infected ras-transformed cells, which in combination with the higher progeny virus reveals a mode by which human cytomegalovirus achieves efficient spread of infection in the cells expressing the oncogenic Harvey-ras (12V) gene. Collectively, our data suggest that human cytomegalovirus employs the host-cell Ras signaling pathway to ensue viral expression and ultimately successful propagation. Transformed cells with an activated Ras signaling pathway are therefore particularly susceptible to human cytomegalovirus infection.

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