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J Virol. 2013 Oct;87(20):10968-79. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01120-13. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Later passages of neural progenitor cells from neonatal brain are more permissive for human cytomegalovirus infection.

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State Key Laboratory of Virology, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China.


Congenital human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is the most frequent infectious cause of birth defects, primarily neurological disorders. Neural progenitor/stem cells (NPCs) are the major cell type in the subventricular zone and are susceptible to HCMV infection. In culture, the differentiation status of NPCs may change with passage, which in turn may alter susceptibility to virus infection. Previously, only early-passage (i.e., prior to passage 9) NPCs were studied and shown to be permissive to HCMV infection. In this study, NPC cultures derived at different gestational ages were evaluated after short (passages 3 to 6) and extended (passages 11 to 20) in vitro passages for biological and virological parameters (i.e., cell morphology, expression of NPC markers and HCMV receptors, viral entry efficiency, viral gene expression, virus-induced cytopathic effect, and release of infectious progeny). These parameters were not significantly influenced by the gestational age of the source tissues. However, extended-passage cultures showed evidence of initiation of differentiation, increased viral entry, and more efficient production of infectious progeny. These results confirm that NPCs are fully permissive for HCMV infection and that extended-passage NPCs initiate differentiation and are more permissive for HCMV infection. Later-passage NPCs being differentiated and more permissive for HCMV infection suggest that HCMV infection in fetal brain may cause more neural cell loss and give rise to severe neurological disabilities with advancing brain development.

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