INVESTIGATING CYTOMEGALOVIRUS REACTIVATION FROM LATENCY IN MICE FOLLOWING WHOLE-BODY RADIATION

Alona Sukhina , Jason L. Pugh, Megan J. Smithey, and Janko Nickolich-Zugich

INVESTIGATING CYTOMEGALOVIRUS REACTIVATION FROM LATENCY IN MICE FOLLOWING WHOLE-BODY RADIATION

The human cytomegalovirus (hCMV) is extremely prevalent in human populations and has a life-long latency. This virus has also been associated with the aging immune system, and intense efforts are underway to dissect this relationship. CMV is asymptomatic in individuals with intact immune system, but can be devastating in those with impaired immunity, including neonates, transplant recipients and those undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy. With regard to radiation, key unanswered issues center on the impact of radiation on both the host's ability to keep the virus under control and effects upon the virus itself. To address these questions, we infected adult mice with the mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV), allowed for latent infection to be established, and measured virus levels after various doses of whole-body radiation. Using the real-time PCR assay, we were able to measure baseline viral populations by extracting viral DNA from the liver, spleen, lung and kidney tissues in adult mice. This method has allowed us to determine the ratio of viral DNA particles per mouse genome and if different levels of reactivation in different organs may alter the immune system. Therefore, we now have data to determine whether and to what extent doses of irradiation correlate to viral reactivation in specific organs. This research will help shed light on the effect of irradiation on ageing mammalian immune systems in the presence of life-long, latent viruses. 

This work was supported by NIH/NIAID contract HHSN272200900059C to Janko Nikolich-Zugich and by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute contract 52006942. 

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