Persistent human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection has been linked to several diseases, including atherosclerosis, transplant vascular sclerosis (TVS), restenosis, and glioblastoma. We have previously shown that factors secreted from HCMVinfected cells induce angiogenesis and that this process is due, at least in part, to increased secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6). In order to identify the HCMV gene(s) responsible for angiogenesis promotion, we constructed a large panel of replicationcompetent HCMV recombinants. One HCMV recombinant deleted for UL1 to UL10 was unable to induce secretion of factors necessary for angiogenesis. Fine mapping using additional HCMV recombinants identified UL7 as a viral gene required for production of angiogenic factors from HCMV-infected cells. Transient expression of pUL7 induced phosphorylation of STAT3 and ERK1/2 MAP kinases and production of proangiogenic factors, including IL-6. Addition of recombinant pUL7 to cells was sufficient for angiogenesis and was again associated with increased IL-6 expression. Analysis of the UL7 structure revealed a conserved domain similar to the immunoglobulin superfamily domain and related to the N-terminal V-like domain of carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1). Our report therefore identifies UL7 as a novel HCMV-encoded molecule that is both structurally and functionally related to cellular CEACAM1, a proangiogenic factor highly expressed during vasculogenesis.
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