Human cytomegalovirus decreases major histocompatibility complex class II by regulating class II transactivator transcript levels in a myeloid cell line

Praneet K. Sandhu, Nicholas J. Buchkovich

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16 Scopus citations


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a ubiquitous pathogen that encodes many proteins to modulate the host immune response. Extensive efforts have led to the elucidation of multiple strategies employed by HCMV to effectively block NK cell targeting of virus-infected cells and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-primed CD8+ T cell response. However, viral regulation of the MHC class II-mediated CD4+ T cell response is understudied in endogenous MHC class II-expressing cells, largely because the popular cell culture systems utilized for studying HCMV do not endogenously express MHC class II. Of the many cell types infected by HCMV in the host, myeloid cells, such as monocytes, are of particular importance due to their role in latency and subsequent dissemination throughout the host. We investigated the impact of HCMV infection on MHC class II in Kasumi-3 cells, a myeloid-progenitor cell line that endogenously expresses the MHC class II gene, HLA-DR. We observed a significant reduction in the expression of surface and total HLA-DR at 72 h postinfection (hpi) and 120 hpi in infected cells. The decrease in HLA-DR expression was independent of the expression of previously described viral genes that regulate the MHC class II complex or the unique short (US) region of HCMV, a region expressing many immunomodulatory genes. The altered surface level of HLA-DR was not a result of increased endocytosis and degradation but was a result of a reduction in HLA-DR transcripts due to a decrease in the expression of the class II transactivator (CIITA). IMPORTANCE Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an opportunistic herpesvirus that is asymptomatic for healthy individuals but that can lead to severe pathology in patients with congenital infections and immunosuppressed patients. Thus, it is important to understand the modulation of the immune response by HCMV, which is understudied in the context of endogenous MHC class II regulation. Using Kasumi-3 cells as a myeloid progenitor cell model endogenously expressing MHC class II (HLA-DR), this study shows that HCMV decreases the expression of HLA-DR in infected cells by reducing the transcription of HLA-DR transcripts early during infection independently of the expression of previously implicated genes. This is an important finding, as it highlights a mechanism of immune evasion utilized by HCMV to decrease the expression of MHC class II in a relevant cell system that endogenously expresses the MHC class II complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01901
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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