Since animal models for studying human cytomegalovinis (HCMV) replication in vivo and pathogenesis are not available, severe combined immunodeficiency mice into which human tissues were implanted (SCID-hu mice) provide an alternative and valuable model for such studies. The HCMV clinical isolates, including those of the Toledo strain, replicate to high titers in human tissue implanted into SCID mice; however, the attenuated AD169 strain has completely lost this ability. The major difference between Toledo and AD169 is a 15-kb segment, encoding 19 open reading frames, which is present in all virulent strains but deleted from attenuated strains. This fact suggests that crucial genes required for HCMV replication in vivo are localized to this region. In this study, the importance of this 15-kb segment for HCMV replication in vivo was determined. First, ToledoBAC virus (produced from a Toledo bacterial artificial chromosome) and AD169 virus were tested for growth in SCID-hu mice. ToledoBAC, like Toledo, grew to high titers in implanted human thymus and liver tissues, while AD169 did not. This outcome showed that the Toledo genome propagated in bacteria (ToledoBAC) retained its virulence. The 15-kb segment was then deleted from Toledo BAC, and the resulting virus, ToledoΔ15kb, was tested for growth in both human foreskin fibroblast (HFF) cells and SCID-hu mice. ToledoΔ15kb had a minor growth defect in HFF but completely failed to replicate in human thymus and liver implants. This failure to grow was rescued when the 15-kb region was inserted back into the Toledo Δ15kb genome. These results directly demonstrated that the genes located in the 15-kb segment are crucial for HCMV replication in vivo.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science