Human cytomegalovirus replication and of apoptosis in astrocytes

James R Lokensgard, Maxim C Cheeran, Genya Gekker, Shuxian Hu, Chun C. Chao, Phillip K. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Objectives: To characterize replication patterns and cytopathic effects during human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection of brain cells. Design: Primary human mixed glial/neuronal cells, as well as purified microglial, astroglial, and enriched neuronal cell cultures, were infected with HCMV strains AD169 and RC256 to determine the ability of the different brain cell types to support viral replication. Results: Mixed glial/neuronal cell cultures were fully permissive for viral replication. Based on previous studies, we hypothesized that human microglial cells would preferentially support productive HCMV replication. However, HCMV did not replicate or display genomic expression in microglial cells. In contrast, primary astrocytes were fully permissive and displayed HCMV-induced cytopathic effects resulting in cell death. In highly enriched neuronal cultures, productive infection and viral expression occurred only in scattered astrocytes. Early in the infection, apoptotic plasma membrane changes were induced in astrocytes. However, nuclear fragmentation was not apparent until later during the course of infection. Conclusions: These results suggest that HCMV possesses astrocytotropic properties that confer preferential expression and cytopathic replication in astrocytes over microglia or neuronal cells. Apoptotic cell death, which is a result of HCMV infection, appears to be delayed until peak viral replication has occurred. (C) Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Human Virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1999


  • Apoptosis
  • Astrocytes
  • Brain
  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • p53


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