group leader: Prof. Cicin-Sain

Recent Submissions

  • The chromatin remodeling factor SPOC1 acts as a cellular restriction factor against human cytomegalovirus by repressing the major immediate-early promoter.

    Reichel, Anna; Stilp, Anne-Charlotte; Scherer, Myriam; Reuter, Nina; Lukassen, Sören; Kasmapour, Bahram; Schreiner, Sabrina; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Winterpacht, Andreas; Stamminger, Thomas; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-05-09)
    The cellular protein SPOC1 (survival time-associated PHD finger protein in ovarian cancer 1) acts as a regulator of chromatin structure and DNA damage response. It binds H3K4me2/3 containing chromatin and promotes DNA condensation by recruiting corepressors such as KAP-1 and H3K9 methyltransferases. Previous studies identified SPOC1 as a restriction factor against human adenovirus (HAdV) infection that is antagonized by E1B-55K/E4orf6-dependent proteasomal degradation. Here, we demonstrate that, in contrast to HAdV-infected cells, SPOC1 is transiently upregulated during the early phase of HCMV replication. We show that expression of the immediate-early protein 1 (IE1) is sufficient and necessary to induce SPOC1. Additionally, we discovered that during later stages of infection SPOC1 is downregulated in a GSK-3β-dependent manner. We provide evidence that SPOC1 overexpression severely impairs HCMV replication by repressing the initiation of viral immediate early (IE) gene expression. Consistently, we observed that SPOC1-depleted primary human fibroblasts displayed augmented initiation of viral IE gene expression. This occurs in a MOI-dependent manner, a defining hallmark of intrinsic immunity. Interestingly, repression requires the presence of high SPOC1 levels at the start of infection while a later upregulation had no negative impact suggesting distinct temporal roles of SPOC1 during the HCMV replicative cycle. Mechanistically, we observed a highly specific association of SPOC1 with the major immediate-early promoter (MIEP) strongly suggesting that SPOC1 inhibits HCMV replication by MIEP binding and subsequent recruitment of heterochromatin building factors. Thus, our data add SPOC1 as a novel factor to the endowment of a host cell to restrict cytomegalovirus infections.
  • The chromatin remodeling factor SPOC1 acts as a cellular restriction factor against human cytomegalovirus by repressing the major immediate-early promoter.

    Reichel, Anna; Stilp, Anne-Charlotte; Scherer, Myriam; Reuter, Nina; Lukassen, Sören; Kasmapour, Bahram; Schreiner, Sabrina; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Winterpacht, Andreas; Stamminger, Thomas; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-05-09)
    The cellular protein SPOC1 (survival time-associated PHD finger protein in ovarian cancer 1) acts as a regulator of chromatin structure and DNA damage response. It binds H3K4me2/3 containing chromatin and promotes DNA condensation by recruiting corepressors such as KAP-1 and H3K9 methyltransferases. Previous studies identified SPOC1 as a restriction factor against human adenovirus (HAdV) infection that is antagonized by E1B-55K/E4orf6-dependent proteasomal degradation. Here, we demonstrate that, in contrast to HAdV-infected cells, SPOC1 is transiently upregulated during the early phase of HCMV replication. We show that expression of the immediate-early protein 1 (IE1) is sufficient and necessary to induce SPOC1. Additionally, we discovered that during later stages of infection SPOC1 is downregulated in a GSK-3β-dependent manner. We provide evidence that SPOC1 overexpression severely impairs HCMV replication by repressing the initiation of viral immediate early (IE) gene expression. Consistently, we observed that SPOC1-depleted primary human fibroblasts displayed augmented initiation of viral IE gene expression. This occurs in a MOI-dependent manner, a defining hallmark of intrinsic immunity. Interestingly, repression requires the presence of high SPOC1 levels at the start of infection while a later upregulation had no negative impact suggesting distinct temporal roles of SPOC1 during the HCMV replicative cycle. Mechanistically, we observed a highly specific association of SPOC1 with the major immediate-early promoter (MIEP) strongly suggesting that SPOC1 inhibits HCMV replication by MIEP binding and subsequent recruitment of heterochromatin building factors. Thus, our data add SPOC1 as a novel factor to the endowment of a host cell to restrict cytomegalovirus infections. Accumulating evidence indicates that during millennia of co-evolution host cells have developed a sophisticated compilation of cellular factors to restrict cytomegalovirus infections. Defining this equipment is important to understand cellular barriers against viral infection and to develop strategies to utilize these factors for antiviral approaches. So far, constituents of PML nuclear bodies and the interferon gamma inducible protein 16 (IFI16) were known to mediate intrinsic immunity against HCMV. In this study, we identify the chromatin modulator SPOC1 as a novel restriction factor against HCMV. We show that pre-existing high SPOC1 protein levels mediate a silencing of HCMV gene expression via a specific association with an important viral -regulatory element, the major immediate-early promoter. Since SPOC1 expression varies between cell-types, this factor may play an important role in the tissue-specific defense against HCMV.
  • Tissue maintenance of CMV-specific inflationary memory T cells by IL-15.

    Baumann, Nicolas S; Torti, Nicole; Welten, Suzanne P M; Barnstorf, Isabel; Borsa, Mariana; Pallmer, Katharina; Oduro, Jennifer D; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Ikuta, Koichi; Ludewig, Burkhard; Oxenius, Annette; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-04)
    Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection induces an atypical CD8 T cell response, termed inflationary, that is characterised by accumulation and maintenance of high numbers of effector memory like cells in circulation and peripheral tissues-a feature being successfully harnessed for vaccine purposes. Although stability of this population depends on recurrent antigen encounter, the requirements for prolonged survival in peripheral tissues remain unknown. Here, we reveal that murine CMV-specific inflationary CD8 T cells are maintained in an antigen-independent manner and have a half-life of 12 weeks in the lung tissue. This half-life is drastically longer than the one of phenotypically comparable inflationary effector cells. IL-15 alone, and none of other common γ-cytokines, was crucial for survival of inflationary cells in peripheral organs. IL-15, mainly produced by non-hematopoietic cells in lung tissue and being trans-presented, promoted inflationary T cell survival by increasing expression of Bcl-2. These results indicate that inflationary CD8 T cells are not just simply effector-like cells, rather they share properties of both effector and memory CD8 T cells and they appear to be long-lived cells compared to the effector cells from acute virus infections.
  • The Contribution of Cytomegalovirus Infection to Immune Senescence Is Set by the Infectious Dose.

    Redeker, Anke; Remmerswaal, Ester B M; van der Gracht, Esmé T I; Welten, Suzanne P M; Höllt, Thomas; Koning, Frits; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Nikolich-Žugich, Janko; Ten Berge, Ineke J M; van Lier, René A W; van Unen, Vincent; Arens, Ramon; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
    The relationship between human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections and accelerated immune senescence is controversial. Whereas some studies reported a CMV-associated impaired capacity to control heterologous infections at old age, other studies could not confirm this. We hypothesized that these discrepancies might relate to the variability in the infectious dose of CMV occurring in real life. Here, we investigated the influence of persistent CMV infection on immune perturbations and specifically addressed the role of the infectious dose on the contribution of CMV to accelerated immune senescence. We show in experimental mouse models that the degree of mouse CMV (MCMV)-specific memory CD8+ T cell accumulation and the phenotypic T cell profile are directly influenced by the infectious dose, and data on HCMV-specific T cells indicate a similar connection. Detailed cluster analysis of the memory CD8+ T cell development showed that high-dose infection causes a differentiation pathway that progresses faster throughout the life span of the host, suggesting a virus-host balance that is influenced by aging and infectious dose. Importantly, short-term MCMV infection in adult mice is not disadvantageous for heterologous superinfection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). However, following long-term CMV infection the strength of the CD8+ T cell immunity to LCMV superinfection was affected by the initial CMV infectious dose, wherein a high infectious dose was found to be a prerequisite for impaired heterologous immunity. Altogether our results underscore the importance of stratification based on the size and differentiation of the CMV-specific memory T cell pools for the impact on immune senescence, and indicate that reduction of the latent/lytic viral load can be beneficial to diminish CMV-associated immune senescence.
  • The M25 gene products are critical for the cytopathic effect of mouse cytomegalovirus.

    Kutle, Ivana; Sengstake, Sarah; Templin, Corinna; Glaß, Mandy; Kubsch, Tobias; Keyser, Kirsten A; Binz, Anne; Bauerfeind, Rudolf; Sodeik, Beate; Čičin-Šain, Luka; Dezeljin, Martina; Messerle, Martin; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-11-14)
    Cell rounding is a hallmark of the cytopathic effect induced by cytomegaloviruses. By screening a panel of deletion mutants of mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) a mutant was identified that did not elicit cell rounding and lacked the ability to form typical plaques. Altered cell morphology was assigned to the viral M25 gene. We detected an early 2.8 kb M25 mRNA directing the synthesis of a 105 kDa M25 protein, and confirmed that a late 3.1 kb mRNA encodes a 130 kDa M25 tegument protein. Virions lacking the M25 tegument protein were of smaller size because the tegument layer between capsid and viral envelope was reduced. The ΔM25 mutant did not provoke the rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton observed after wild-type MCMV infection, and isolated expression of the M25 proteins led to cell size reduction, confirming that they contribute to the morphological changes. Yields of progeny virus and cell-to-cell spread of the ΔM25 mutant in vitro were diminished and replication in vivo was impaired. The identification of an MCMV gene involved in cell rounding provides the basis for investigating the role of this cytopathic effect in CMV pathogenesis.
  • Myeloid dendritic cells repress human cytomegalovirus gene expression and spread by releasing interferon-unrelated soluble antiviral factors.

    Kasmapour, Bahram; Kubsch, Tobias; Rand, Ulfert; Eiz-Vesper, Britta; Messerle, Martin; Vondran, Florian W R; Wiegmann, Bettina; Haverich, Axel; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-10-18)
    Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a beta-herpesvirus that latently infects most adult humans worldwide and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised hosts. Latent human CMV (HCMV) is believed to reside in precursors of myeloid-lineage, leukocytes and monocytes, which give raise to macrophages and dendritic cells. We report here that human monocyte derived DCs (mo-DC) suppress HCMV infection in coculture with infected fibroblasts target cells in an effector-to-target-ratio dependent manner. Intriguingly, optimal activation of mo-DC was achieved in coculture conditions, not by their direct infection with HCMV, implying that mo-DC may recognize unique molecular patterns on, or within, infected fibroblasts. We show that HCMV is controlled by secreted factors that act by priming defenses in target cells rather than by direct viral neutralization, but we excluded a role for IFNs in this control. The expression of lytic viral genes in infected cells and the progression of infection were significantly slowed down, but this effect was reversible, indicating that the control of infection depended on the transient induction of antiviral effector molecules in target cells. Using immediate-early or late-phase reporter HCMVs, we show that soluble factors secreted in the cocultures suppress HCMV replication at both stages of the infection and that their antiviral effect is robust and comparable in numerous batches of mo-DCs as well as in primary fibroblasts and stromal cells.Importance Human cytomegalovirus is a widespread opportunistic pathogen that can cause severe disease and complications in vulnerable individuals. This includes newborn children, HIV AIDS patients or transplant recipients. Although the majority of healthy humans carry this virus throughout their lives without symptoms, it is not exactly clear which tissues in the body are the main reservoirs of latent virus infection, or how the delicate balance between the virus and the immune system is maintained over the individual's lifetime. Here for the first time, we provide evidence for a novel mechanism of direct virus control by a subset of human innate immune cells called Dendritic Cells, which are regarded as a major site of virus latency and reactivation. Our findings may have important implications in HCMV disease prevention as well as development of novel therapeutic approaches.
  • UL36 Rescues Apoptosis Inhibition and In vivo Replication of a Chimeric MCMV Lacking the M36 Gene.

    Chaudhry, M Zeeshan; Kasmapour, Bahram; Plaza-Sirvent, Carlos; Bajagic, Milica; Casalegno Garduño, Rosaely; Borkner, Lisa; Lenac Roviš, Tihana; Scrima, Andrea; Jonjic, Stipan; Schmitz, Ingo; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
    Apoptosis is an important defense mechanism mounted by the immune system to control virus replication. Hence, cytomegaloviruses (CMV) evolved and acquired numerous anti-apoptotic genes. The product of the human CMV (HCMV) UL36 gene, pUL36 (also known as vICA), binds to pro-caspase-8, thus inhibiting death-receptor apoptosis and enabling viral replication in differentiated THP-1 cells. In vivo studies of the function of HCMV genes are severely limited due to the strict host specificity of cytomegaloviruses, but CMV orthologues that co-evolved with other species allow the experimental study of CMV biology in vivo. The mouse CMV (MCMV) homolog of the UL36 gene is called M36, and its protein product (pM36) is a functional homolog of vICA that binds to murine caspase-8 and inhibits its activation. M36-deficient MCMV is severely growth impaired in macrophages and in vivo. Here we show that pUL36 binds to the murine pro-caspase-8, and that UL36 expression inhibits death-receptor apoptosis in murine cells and can replace M36 to allow MCMV growth in vitro and in vivo. We generated a chimeric MCMV expressing the UL36 ORF sequence instead of the M36 one. The newly generated MCMV(UL36) inhibited apoptosis in macrophage lines RAW 264.7, J774A.1, and IC-21 and its growth was rescued to wild type levels. Similarly, growth was rescued in vivo in the liver and spleen, but only partially in the salivary glands of BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice. In conclusion, we determined that an immune-evasive HCMV gene is conserved enough to functionally replace its MCMV counterpart and thus allow its study in an in vivo setting. As UL36 and M36 proteins engage the same molecular host target, our newly developed model can facilitate studies of anti-viral compounds targeting pUL36 in vivo.
  • CMV immune evasion and manipulation of the immune system with aging.

    Jackson, Sarah E; Redeker, Anke; Arens, Ramon; van Baarle, Debbie; van den Berg, Sara P H; Benedict, Chris A; Čičin-Šain, Luka; Hill, Ann B; Wills, Mark R; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7., 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-06-24)
    Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) encodes numerous proteins and microRNAs that function to evade the immune response and allow the virus to replicate and disseminate in the face of a competent innate and acquired immune system. The establishment of a latent infection by CMV, which if completely quiescent at the level of viral gene expression would represent an ultimate in immune evasion strategies, is not sufficient for lifelong persistence and dissemination of the virus. CMV needs to reactivate and replicate in a lytic cycle of infection in order to disseminate further, which occurs in the face of a fully primed secondary immune response. Without reactivation, latency itself would be redundant for the virus. It is also becoming clear that latency is not a totally quiescent state, but is characterized by limited viral gene expression. Therefore, the virus also needs immune evasion strategies during latency. An effective immune response to CMV is required or viral replication will cause morbidity and ultimately mortality in the host. There is clearly a complex balance between virus immune evasion and host immune recognition over a lifetime. This poses the important question of whether long-term evasion or manipulation of the immune response driven by CMV is detrimental to health. In this meeting report, three groups used the murine model of CMV (MCMV) to examine if the contribution of the virus to immune senescence is set by the (i) initial viral inoculum, (ii) inflation of T cell responses, (iii) or the balance between functionally distinct effector CD4+ T cells. The work of other groups studying the CMV response in humans is discussed. Their work asks whether the ability to make immune responses to new antigens is compromised by (i) age and HCMV carriage, (ii) long-term exposure to HCMV giving rise to an overall immunosuppressive environment and increased levels of latent virus, or (iii) adapted virus mutants (used as potential vaccines) that have the capacity to elicit conventional and unconventional T cell responses.
  • IL-33/ST2 pathway drives regulatory T cell dependent suppression of liver damage upon cytomegalovirus infection.

    Popovic, Branka; Golemac, Mijo; Podlech, Jürgen; Zeleznjak, Jelena; Bilic-Zulle, Lidija; Lukic, Miodrag L; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Reddehase, Matthias J; Sparwasser, Tim; Krmpotic, Astrid; Jonjic, Stipan; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH, Feodor-Lynen Str.7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (2017-04)
    Regulatory T (Treg) cells dampen an exaggerated immune response to viral infections in order to avoid immunopathology. Cytomegaloviruses (CMVs) are herpesviruses usually causing asymptomatic infection in immunocompetent hosts and induce strong cellular immunity which provides protection against CMV disease. It remains unclear how these persistent viruses manage to avoid induction of immunopathology not only during the acute infection but also during life-long persistence and virus reactivation. This may be due to numerous viral immunoevasion strategies used to specifically modulate immune responses but also induction of Treg cells by CMV infection. Here we demonstrate that liver Treg cells are strongly induced in mice infected with murine CMV (MCMV). The depletion of Treg cells results in severe hepatitis and liver damage without alterations in the virus load. Moreover, liver Treg cells show a high expression of ST2, a cellular receptor for tissue alarmin IL-33, which is strongly upregulated in the liver of infected mice. We demonstrated that IL-33 signaling is crucial for Treg cell accumulation after MCMV infection and ST2-deficient mice show a more pronounced liver pathology and higher mortality compared to infected control mice. These results illustrate the importance of IL-33 in the suppressive function of liver Treg cells during CMV infection.
  • Peptide Processing Is Critical for T-Cell Memory Inflation and May Be Optimized to Improve Immune Protection by CMV-Based Vaccine Vectors.

    Dekhtiarenko, Iryna; Ratts, Robert B; Blatnik, Renata; Lee, Lian N; Fischer, Sonja; Borkner, Lisa; Oduro, Jennifer D; Marandu, Thomas F; Hoppe, Stephanie; Ruzsics, Zsolt; Sonnemann, Julia K; Mansouri, Mandana; Meyer, Christine; Lemmermann, Niels A W; Holtappels, Rafaela; Arens, Ramon; Klenerman, Paul; Früh, Klaus; Reddehase, Matthias J; Riemer, Angelika B; Cicin-Sain, Luka (2016-12)
    Cytomegalovirus (CMV) elicits long-term T-cell immunity of unparalleled strength, which has allowed the development of highly protective CMV-based vaccine vectors. Counterintuitively, experimental vaccines encoding a single MHC-I restricted epitope offered better immune protection than those expressing entire proteins, including the same epitope. To clarify this conundrum, we generated recombinant murine CMVs (MCMVs) encoding well-characterized MHC-I epitopes at different positions within viral genes and observed strong immune responses and protection against viruses and tumor growth when the epitopes were expressed at the protein C-terminus. We used the M45-encoded conventional epitope HGIRNASFI to dissect this phenomenon at the molecular level. A recombinant MCMV expressing HGIRNASFI on the C-terminus of M45, in contrast to wild-type MCMV, enabled peptide processing by the constitutive proteasome, direct antigen presentation, and an inflation of antigen-specific effector memory cells. Consequently, our results indicate that constitutive proteasome processing of antigenic epitopes in latently infected cells is required for robust inflationary responses. This insight allows utilizing the epitope positioning in the design of CMV-based vectors as a novel strategy for enhancing their efficacy.
  • A new reporter mouse cytomegalovirus reveals maintained immediate-early gene expression but poor virus replication in cycling liver sinusoidal endothelial cells.

    Dag, Franziska; Weingärtner, Adrien; Butueva, Milada; Conte, Ianina; Holzki, Julia; May, Tobias; Adler, Barbara; Wirth, Dagmar; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2013-06-17)
    The MCMV major immediate early promoter/enhancer (MIEP) is a bidirectional promoter that drives the expression of the three immediate early viral genes, namely ie1, ie2 and ie3. The regulation of their expression is intensively studied, but still incompletely understood.
  • Murine cytomegalovirus infection via the intranasal route offers a robust model of immunity upon mucosal CMV infection.

    Oduro, Jennifer D; Redeker, Anke; Lemmermann, Niels A W; Ebermann, Linda; Marandu, Thomas F; Dekhtiarenko, Iryna; Holzki, Julia K; Busch, Dirk; Arens, Ramon; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015-11-10)
    Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a ubiquitous virus, causing the most common congenital infection in humans, yet a vaccine against this virus is not available. The experimental study of immunity against CMV in animal models of infection, such as the infection of mice with the mouse CMV (MCMV), has relied on systemic intraperitoneal infection protocols, although the infection naturally transmits by mucosal routes via body fluids containing CMV. To characterize the biology of infections by mucosal routes, we have compared the kinetics of virus replication, the latent viral load, and CD8 T cell responses in lymphoid organs upon experimental intranasal and intragastric infection to intraperitoneal infection of two unrelated mouse strains. We have observed that intranasal infection induces robust and persistent virus replication in lungs and salivary glands, but a poor one in the spleen. CD8 T cell responses were somewhat weaker than upon intraperitoneal infection, but showed similar kinetic profiles and phenotypes of antigen-specific cells. On the other hand, intragastric infection resulted in abortive or poor virus replication in all tested organs, and poor T cell responses to the virus, especially at late times after infection. Consistent with the T cell kinetics, the MCMV latent load was high in the lungs, but low in the spleen of intranasally infected mice and lowest in all tested organs upon intragastric infection. In conclusion, we show here that intranasal, but not intragastric infection of mice with MCMV represents a robust model to study short and long-term biology of CMV infection by a mucosal route.
  • CMV and Immunosenescence: from basics to clinics.

    Solana, Rafael; Tarazona, Raquel; Aiello, Allison E; Akbar, Arne N; Appay, Victor; Beswick, Mark; Bosch, Jos A; Campos, Carmen; Cantisán, Sara; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Derhovanessian, Evelyna; Ferrando-Martínez, Sara; Frasca, Daniela; Fulöp, Tamas; Govind, Sheila; Grubeck-Loebenstein, Beatrix; Hill, Ann; Hurme, Mikko; Kern, Florian; Larbi, Anis; López-Botet, Miguel; Maier, Andrea B; McElhaney, Janet E; Moss, Paul; Naumova, Elissaveta; Nikolich-Zugich, Janko; Pera, Alejandra; Rector, Jerrald L; Riddell, Natalie; Sanchez-Correa, Beatriz; Sansoni, Paolo; Sauce, Delphine; van Lier, Rene; Wang, George C; Wills, Mark R; Zieliński, Maciej; Pawelec, Graham; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2012)
    Alone among herpesviruses, persistent Cytomegalovirus (CMV) markedly alters the numbers and proportions of peripheral immune cells in infected-vs-uninfected people. Because the rate of CMV infection increases with age in most countries, it has been suggested that it drives or at least exacerbates "immunosenescence". This contention remains controversial and was the primary subject of the Third International Workshop on CMV & Immunosenescence which was held in Cordoba, Spain, 15-16th March, 2012. Discussions focused on several main themes including the effects of CMV on adaptive immunity and immunosenescence, characterization of CMV-specific T cells, impact of CMV infection and ageing on innate immunity, and finally, most important, the clinical implications of immunosenescence and CMV infection. Here we summarize the major findings of this workshop.
  • Mouse CMV infection delays antibody class switch upon an unrelated virus challenge.

    Marandu, Thomas F; Finsterbusch, Katja; Kröger, Andrea; Čičin-Šain, Luka; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-06)
    Poor immune protection upon vaccination is a critical determinant of immunosenescence. Latent Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been associated with poor antibody responses to vaccination, but a causative role for CMV in the poor immune response requires experimental evidence and thus could not be confirmed in clinical studies. To test the hypothesis that latent CMV infection causes poor antibody responses, we infected young or adult mice with mouse CMV and challenged them with Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) at 15 or 18months of age. Latent, but not primary infection with mouse CMV resulted in diminished neutralizing titers of the serum IgG fraction at day 7 post challenge, which recovered by day 14 post challenge. This phenomenon was specific for mice infected with mouse CMV, but not mice infected with other herpesviruses, like murine herpesvirus-68 or herpes simplex virus type 1, or mice infected with non-persistent viruses, such as influenza or Vaccinia virus. Hence, our data indicate a delay in IgG class-switch that was specific for the CMV infection. Herpesviral infections did not change the B-cell memory compartment, and increased the size of the effector-memory subset of blood CD4 T-cells only when administered in combination. Furthermore, CD4 T-cell response to VSV infection was maintained in latently infected mice. Therefore, our results argue that latent CMV infection impairs B-cell, but not T-cell responses to a challenge with VSV and delays antibody class-switch by a mechanism which may be independent of T-cell help.
  • Reversible silencing of cytomegalovirus genomes by type I interferon governs virus latency.

    Dağ, Franziska; Dölken, Lars; Holzki, Julia; Drabig, Anja; Weingärtner, Adrien; Schwerk, Johannes; Lienenklaus, Stefan; Conte, Ianina; Geffers, Robert; Davenport, Colin; Rand, Ulfert; Köster, Mario; Weiß, Siegfried; Adler, Barbara; Wirth, Dagmar; Messerle, Martin; Hauser, Hansjörg; Cičin-Šain, Luka; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-02)
    Herpesviruses establish a lifelong latent infection posing the risk for virus reactivation and disease. In cytomegalovirus infection, expression of the major immediate early (IE) genes is a critical checkpoint, driving the lytic replication cycle upon primary infection or reactivation from latency. While it is known that type I interferon (IFN) limits lytic CMV replication, its role in latency and reactivation has not been explored. In the model of mouse CMV infection, we show here that IFNβ blocks mouse CMV replication at the level of IE transcription in IFN-responding endothelial cells and fibroblasts. The IFN-mediated inhibition of IE genes was entirely reversible, arguing that the IFN-effect may be consistent with viral latency. Importantly, the response to IFNβ is stochastic, and MCMV IE transcription and replication were repressed only in IFN-responsive cells, while the IFN-unresponsive cells remained permissive for lytic MCMV infection. IFN blocked the viral lytic replication cycle by upregulating the nuclear domain 10 (ND10) components, PML, Sp100 and Daxx, and their knockdown by shRNA rescued viral replication in the presence of IFNβ. Finally, IFNβ prevented MCMV reactivation from endothelial cells derived from latently infected mice, validating our results in a biologically relevant setting. Therefore, our data do not only define for the first time the molecular mechanism of IFN-mediated control of CMV infection, but also indicate that the reversible inhibition of the virus lytic cycle by IFNβ is consistent with the establishment of CMV latency.
  • The human cytomegalovirus UL51 protein is essential for viral genome cleavage-packaging and interacts with the terminase subunits pUL56 and pUL89.

    Borst, Eva Maria; Kleine-Albers, Jennifer; Gabaev, Ildar; Babic, Marina; Wagner, Karen; Binz, Anne; Degenhardt, Inga; Kalesse, Markus; Jonjic, Stipan; Bauerfeind, Rudolf; Messerle, Martin; Institute for Virology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany. (2013-02)
    Cleavage of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) genomes as well as their packaging into capsids is an enzymatic process mediated by viral proteins and therefore a promising target for antiviral therapy. The HCMV proteins pUL56 and pUL89 form the terminase and play a central role in cleavage-packaging, but several additional viral proteins, including pUL51, had been suggested to contribute to this process, although they remain largely uncharacterized. To study the function of pUL51 in infected cells, we constructed HCMV mutants encoding epitope-tagged versions of pUL51 and used a conditionally replicating virus (HCMV-UL51-ddFKBP), in which pUL51 levels could be regulated by a synthetic ligand. In cells infected with HCMV-UL51-ddFKBP, viral DNA replication was not affected when pUL51 was knocked down. However, no unit-length genomes and no DNA-filled C capsids were found, indicating that cleavage of concatemeric HCMV DNA and genome packaging into capsids did not occur in the absence of pUL51. pUL51 was expressed mainly with late kinetics and was targeted to nuclear replication compartments, where it colocalized with pUL56 and pUL89. Upon pUL51 knockdown, pUL56 and pUL89 were no longer detectable in replication compartments, suggesting that pUL51 is needed for their correct subnuclear localization. Moreover, pUL51 was found in a complex with the terminase subunits pUL56 and pUL89. Our data provide evidence that pUL51 is crucial for HCMV genome cleavage-packaging and may represent a third component of the viral terminase complex. Interference with the interactions between the terminase subunits by antiviral drugs could be a strategy to disrupt the HCMV replication cycle.
  • Leishmania promastigotes lack phosphatidylserine but bind annexin V upon permeabilization or miltefosine treatment.

    Weingärtner, Adrien; Kemmer, Gerdi; Müller, Frederic D; Zampieri, Ricardo Andrade; Gonzaga dos Santos, Marcos; Schiller, Jürgen; Pomorski, Thomas Günther; Institute of Biology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany. (2012)
    The protozoan parasite Leishmania is an intracellular pathogen infecting and replicating inside vertebrate host macrophages. A recent model suggests that promastigote and amastigote forms of the parasite mimic mammalian apoptotic cells by exposing phosphatidylserine (PS) at the cell surface to trigger their phagocytic uptake into host macrophages. PS presentation at the cell surface is typically analyzed using fluorescence-labeled annexin V. Here we show that Leishmania promastigotes can be stained by fluorescence-labeled annexin V upon permeabilization or miltefosine treatment. However, combined lipid analysis by thin-layer chromatography, mass spectrometry and (31)P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy revealed that Leishmania promastigotes lack any detectable amount of PS. Instead, we identified several other phospholipid classes such phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylethanolamine; phosphatidylglycerol and phosphatidylinositol as candidate lipids enabling annexin V staining.
  • Block of death-receptor apoptosis protects mouse cytomegalovirus from macrophages and is a determinant of virulence in immunodeficient hosts.

    Ebermann, Linda; Ruzsics, Zsolt; Guzmán, Carlos A; van Rooijen, Nico; Casalegno-Garduño, Rosaely; Koszinowski, Ulrich; Cičin-Šain, Luka; Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2012-12)
    The inhibition of death-receptor apoptosis is a conserved viral function. The murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) gene M36 is a sequence and functional homologue of the human cytomegalovirus gene UL36, and it encodes an inhibitor of apoptosis that binds to caspase-8, blocks downstream signaling and thus contributes to viral fitness in macrophages and in vivo. Here we show a direct link between the inability of mutants lacking the M36 gene (ΔM36) to inhibit apoptosis, poor viral growth in macrophage cell cultures and viral in vivo fitness and virulence. ΔM36 grew poorly in RAG1 knockout mice and in RAG/IL-2-receptor common gamma chain double knockout mice (RAGγC(-/-)), but the depletion of macrophages in either mouse strain rescued the growth of ΔM36 to almost wild-type levels. This was consistent with the observation that activated macrophages were sufficient to impair ΔM36 growth in vitro. Namely, spiking fibroblast cell cultures with activated macrophages had a suppressive effect on ΔM36 growth, which could be reverted by z-VAD-fmk, a chemical apoptosis inhibitor. TNFα from activated macrophages synergized with IFNγ in target cells to inhibit ΔM36 growth. Hence, our data show that poor ΔM36 growth in macrophages does not reflect a defect in tropism, but rather a defect in the suppression of antiviral mediators secreted by macrophages. To the best of our knowledge, this shows for the first time an immune evasion mechanism that protects MCMV selectively from the antiviral activity of macrophages, and thus critically contributes to viral pathogenicity in the immunocompromised host devoid of the adaptive immune system.
  • Cytomegalovirus infection impairs immune responses and accentuates T-cell pool changes observed in mice with aging.

    Cicin-Sain, Luka; Brien, James D; Uhrlaub, Jennifer L; Drabig, Anja; Marandu, Thomas F; Nikolich-Zugich, Janko; Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2012-08)
    Prominent immune alterations associated with aging include the loss of naïve T-cell numbers, diversity and function. While genetic contributors and mechanistic details in the aging process have been addressed in multiple studies, the role of environmental agents in immune aging remains incompletely understood. From the standpoint of environmental infectious agents, latent cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been associated with an immune risk profile in the elderly humans, yet the cause-effect relationship of this association remains unclear. Here we present direct experimental evidence that mouse CMV (MCMV) infection results in select T-cell subset changes associated with immune aging, namely the increase of relative and absolute counts of CD8 T-cells in the blood, with a decreased representation of the naïve and the increased representation of the effector memory blood CD8 T-cells. Moreover, MCMV infection resulted in significantly weaker CD8 responses to superinfection with Influenza, Human Herpes Virus I or West-Nile-Virus, even 16 months following MCMV infection. These irreversible losses in T-cell function could not be observed in uninfected or in vaccinia virus-infected controls and were not due to the immune-evasive action of MCMV genes. Rather, the CD8 activation in draining lymph nodes upon viral challenge was decreased in MCMV infected mice and the immune response correlated directly to the frequency of the naïve and inversely to that of the effector cells in the blood CD8 pool. Therefore, latent MCMV infection resulted in pronounced changes of the T-cell compartment consistent with impaired naïve T-cell function.
  • A replicating cytomegalovirus-based vaccine encoding a single Ebola virus nucleoprotein CTL epitope confers protection against Ebola virus.

    Tsuda, Yoshimi; Caposio, Patrizia; Parkins, Christopher J; Botto, Sara; Messaoudi, Ilhem; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Feldmann, Heinz; Jarvis, Michael A; Laboratory of Virology, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana, United States of America. (2011-08)
    Human outbreaks of Ebola virus (EBOV) are a serious human health concern in Central Africa. Great apes (gorillas/chimpanzees) are an important source of EBOV transmission to humans due to increased hunting of wildlife including the 'bush-meat' trade. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an highly immunogenic virus that has shown recent utility as a vaccine platform. CMV-based vaccines also have the unique potential to re-infect and disseminate through target populations regardless of prior CMV immunity, which may be ideal for achieving high vaccine coverage in inaccessible populations such as great apes.

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