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Curr Eye Res. 1989 Aug;8(8):835-9.

Cytomegalovirus replication in cultured human retinal pigment epithelial cells.

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Department of Ophthalmology, LSU Eye Center, Louisiana State University Medical Center School of Medicine, New Orleans 70112.


Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) was isolated from the globe of a donor positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who had cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis secondary to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In culture, the cells exhibited normal epithelioid morphology by phase contrast microscopy. After two weeks the cells developed cytomegaly and dense intranuclear and cytoplasmic inclusions and, eventually, died. Transmission electron microscopy (EM) demonstrated intranuclear nonenveloped virus particles 80-120 nm in diameter consistent with a herpes type infection. Immunofluorescence staining demonstrated the presence of CMV antigens. Conditioned medium from the infected cells caused infection in RPE cells isolated from normal donors. Hybridization assay demonstrated the presence of CMV DNA and indicated that the time course of the infection was similar, but not identical to infection in MRC-5 and HEL cells. We conclude that cultured human RPE is a permissive host for CMV.

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