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J Clin Invest. 1996 Nov 1;98(9):2129-38.

Human cytomegalovirus increases modified low density lipoprotein uptake and scavenger receptor mRNA expression in vascular smooth muscle cells.

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Cardiology Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Evidence suggests a possible role for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in the development of arteriosclerosis. One of the earliest events in plaque formation is the accumulation of lipid-laden foam cells, derived from macrophages and smooth muscle cells (SMCs). The lipid accumulation that occurs depends upon the uptake of oxidized LDL (Ox-LDL), a process in which the scavenger receptor (SR) has been postulated to play an important role. We therefore examined the effects of HCMV on this process. We demonstrate that HCMV infection of human SMCs increases modified LDL uptake and stimulates class A SR gene (SR-A) mRNA expression. In addition, infection of rat SMCs with HCMV, which causes immediate early gene expression (IE72/IE84), but no early or late HCMV gene products and no cytopathic effects, also increases SMC uptake of Ox-LDL and acetylated LDL, with either effect blocked by an excess of either cold Ox-LDL or acetylated-LDL, and by fucoidin, an SR competitor. Cotransfection of an IE72, but not an IE84, expression plasmid and a plasmid containing a Class A SR promoter/reporter gene construct enhances SR promoter activity. Since increased Ox-LDL uptake is believed to play an important role in arteriosclerosis, these results provide a link between HCMV infection and arteriosclerotic plaque formation.

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