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J Virol. 2017 Jun 26;91(14). pii: e00437-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00437-17. Print 2017 Jul 15.

Cell Culture Systems To Study Human Herpesvirus 6A/B Chromosomal Integration.

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Division of Infectious and Immune Diseases, CHU de Quebec Research Center, Quebec City, Canada.
Institut für Virologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Virology Division, Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Division of Clinical Virology, Center for Infectious Diseases, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan.
Department of Microbiology, Infectious Disease and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada.
Division of Infectious and Immune Diseases, CHU de Quebec Research Center, Quebec City, Canada


Human herpesviruses 6A/B (HHV-6A/B) can integrate their viral genomes in the telomeres of human chromosomes. The viral and cellular factors contributing to HHV-6A/B integration remain largely unknown, mostly due to the lack of efficient and reproducible cell culture models to study HHV-6A/B integration. In this study, we characterized the HHV-6A/B integration efficiencies in several human cell lines using two different approaches. First, after a short-term infection (5 h), cells were processed for single-cell cloning and analyzed for chromosomally integrated HHV-6A/B (ciHHV-6A/B). Second, cells were infected with HHV-6A/B and allowed to grow in bulk for 4 weeks or longer and then analyzed for the presence of ciHHV-6. Using quantitative PCR (qPCR), droplet digital PCR, and fluorescent in situ hybridization, we could demonstrate that HHV-6A/B integrated in most human cell lines tested, including telomerase-positive (HeLa, MCF-7, HCT-116, and HEK293T) and telomerase-negative cell lines (U2OS and GM847). Our results also indicate that inhibition of DNA replication, using phosphonoacetic acid, did not affect HHV-6A/B integration. Certain clones harboring ciHHV-6A/B spontaneously express viral genes and proteins. Treatment of cells with phorbol ester or histone deacetylase inhibitors triggered the expression of many viral genes, including U39, U90, and U100, without the production of infectious virus, suggesting that the tested stimuli were not sufficient to trigger full reactivation. In summary, both integration models yielded comparable results and should enable the identification of viral and cellular factors contributing to HHV-6A/B integration and the screening of drugs influencing viral gene expression, as well as the release of infectious HHV-6A/B from the integrated state.IMPORTANCE The analysis and understanding of HHV-6A/B genome integration into host DNA is currently limited due to the lack of reproducible and efficient viral integration systems. In the present study, we describe two quantitative cell culture viral integration systems. These systems can be used to define cellular and viral factors that play a role in HHV-6A/B integration. Furthermore, these systems will allow us to decipher the conditions resulting in virus gene expression and excision of the integrated viral genome resulting in reactivation.


HHV-6; chromosomal integration; ddPCR; telomere

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