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Cancer Res. 1998 Jan 15;58(2):367-72.

Persistent human cytomegalovirus infection induces drug resistance and alteration of programmed cell death in human neuroblastoma cells.

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Zentrum der Hygiene, Institut für Medizinische Virologie, Klinikum der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Infection with human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a common and generally asymptomatic affection in childhood. Its role in neuroblastoma (NB) patients has not yet been elucidated. As evidence grows that HCMV interacts with apoptotic signaling due to the interaction of HCMV gene products with cellular proteins of apoptotic pathways, we used human NB cell line UKF-NB-2 persistently infected with HCMV strain AD169 to study the effects of long-term HCMV infection on programmed cell death of neuroectodermal tumor cells. The cells designated UKF-NB-2AD169 continued to produce infectious virus in successive subcultures over a period of more than 1 year. Up to 20% of cells expressed viral genes or produced infectious virus after initiation of infection. UKF-NB-2AD169 cells were significantly less sensitive to the cytotoxic agents cisplatinum and etoposide than parental (noninfected) UKF-NB-2 cells. These effects were associated with decreased ability of UKF-NB-2AD169 cells to undergo apoptosis and continuous viral replication. UKF-NB-2AD169 cells showed increased levels of antiapoptosis Bcl-2 protein (up to 12-fold), whereas expression of p53 and c-myc was not changed. Treatment of UKF-NB-2AD169 cells with ganciclovir, abolishing virus production, reestablished sensitivity to chemotherapy, lowered Bcl-2 expression, and facilitated inducibility of apoptosis to the level of the parental cell line. The results demonstrate that persistent HCMV infection confers resistance to cytotoxic agents on neuroectodermal tumor cells and protects from apoptosis, probably due to increased levels of Bcl-2 protein. Hence, it is conceivable that HCMV infection before or during tumorigenesis may contribute in some NB patients to failure of therapy.

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