Activation of the interferon response by human cytomegalovirus occurs via cytoplasmic double-stranded DNA but not glycoprotein B

Victor R. DeFilippis, Tina Sali, David Alvarado, Laura White, Wade Bresnahan, Klaus J. Früh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations


In vitro infection of cells with the betaherpesvirus human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) stimulates an innate immune response characterized by phosphorylation of the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) and subsequent expression of IRF3-dependent genes. While previous work suggests that HCMV envelope glycoprotein B is responsible for initiating this reaction, the signaling pathways stimulated by virus infection that lead to IRF3 phosphorylation have largely been uncharacterized. Recently, we identified Z DNA binding protein 1 (ZBP1), a sensor of cytoplasmic DNA, as an essential protein for this response. We now describe a human fibroblast cell line exhibiting a recessive defect that results in the absence of activation of IRF3 following treatment with HCMV but not Sendai virus or double-stranded RNA. In addition, we show that while exposure of these cells to soluble HCMV glycoprotein B is capable of triggering IRF3-dependent gene transcription, transfection of the cells with double-stranded DNA is not. Furthermore, we show that over-expression of ZBP1 in these cells reestablishes their ability to secrete interferon in response to HCMV and that multiple ZBP1 transcriptional variants exist in both wild-type and mutant cells. These results have two major implications for the understanding of innate immune stimulation by HCMV. First, they demonstrate that HCMV glycoprotein B is not the essential molecular pattern that induces an IRF3-dependent innate immune response. Second, IRF3-terminal signaling triggered by HCMV particles closely resembles that which is activated by cytoplasmic double-stranded DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8913-8925
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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