Interferon γ regulates acute and latent murine cytomegalovirus infection and chronic disease of the great vessels

Rachel M. Presti, Jessica L. Pollock, Albert J. Dal Canto, Andrew K. O'Guin, Herbert W. Virgin IV

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


To define immune mechanisms that regulate chronic and latent herpesvirus infection, we analyzed the role of interferon γ (IFN-γ) during murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection. Lethality studies demonstrated a net protective role for IFN-γ independent of IFN-α/β, during acute MCMV infection. Mice lacking the IFN-γ receptor (IFN-γR(-/-)) developed and maintained striking chronic aortic inflammation. Arteritis was associated with inclusion bodies and MCMV antigen in the aortic media. To understand how lack of IFN-γ responses could lead to chronic vascular disease, we evaluated the role of IFN-γ, in MCMV latency. MCMV-infected IFN-γR(-/-) mice shed preformed infectious MCMV in spleen, peritoneal exudate cells, and salivary gland for up to 6 mo after infection, whereas the majority of congenic control animals cleared chronic productive infection. However, the IFN-γR was not required for establishment of latency. Using an in vitro explant reactivation model, we showed that IFN-γ reversibly inhibited MCMV reactivation from latency. This was at least partly explained by IFN-γ- mediated blockade of growth of low levels of MCMV in tissue explants. These in vivo and in vitro data suggest that IFN-γ regulation of reactivation from latency contributes to control of chronic vascular disease caused by MCMV. These studies are the first to demonstrate that a component of the immune system (IFN-γ) is necessary to regulate MCMV-associated elastic arteritis and latency in vivo and reactivation of a herpesvirus from latency in vitro. This provides a new model for analysis of the interrelationships among herpesvirus latency, the immune system, and chronic disease of the great vessels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-588
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 3 1998


  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Interferon γ
  • Latency
  • Reactivation
  • Vasculitis


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