Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (accelerated transplant atherosclerosis) is considered by most to involve a chronic allogeneic immune response to one or more constituents in the coronary vascular wall. Recent evidence suggests that there is an association between cytomegalovirus infection and the development of cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV). To determine whether CMV directly infects and/or potentially influences immuno- genicity of vascular tissue, human umbilical vein (HU-VECs) or human aortic (HAECs) endothelial cells and human aortic smooth muscle cells (HASMCs) were isolated, cultured, and infected with CMV strain AD 169. Infection was detected using an immunoperoxidase-labeled monoclonal antibody to CMV immediate-early antigen (L-14). The presence and relative quantity of MHC class I and II antigens were determined flow cytometri- cally using monoclonal antibodies to monomorphic class and class IIHLA determinants. Gamma interferon was used as a positive control stimulant for the upregulation of MHC determinants. Both pooled HUVECs as well as cell lines of HAECs served as targets for CMV infection though less than 10% of the cells were infected despite inocula of 10 pfu/cell. Infection of the pooled HUVECs resulted in no significant changes in the cell surface density of either MHC class I or II determinants. In contrast, HASMCs were excellent targets for CMV infection with virtually 100% of cells infected. CMV infection of 2 distinct HASMC cultures resulted in an increase of 254±158 relative fluorescence units (RFUs) in MHC class I antigen expression, as assessed by fluorescence intensity, in a variable portion of the HASMCs. A second population of cells exhibited a decrease of 73± 16 RFUs in MHC class I antigen expression. No significant change in MHC class II antigen expression was noted. These results demonstrate that while HUVECs and HAECs are targets of CMV infection, human aortic smooth muscle cells can more readily be infected by CMV. Furthermore, CMV can regulate smooth muscle cell MHC class I expression, hence potentially altering immunogenicity. A pathophysiologic link between cardiac allograft vasculopathy and CMV disease can therefore be hypothesized.
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