Although pathologies associated with acute virus infections have been extensively studied, the effects of long-term latent virus infections are less well understood. Human cytomegalovirus, which infects 50% to 80% of humans, is usually acquired during early life and persists in a latent state for the lifetime. The purpose of this study was to determine whether systemic murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection acquired early in life disseminates to and becomes latent in the eye and if ocular MCMV can trigger in situ inflammation and occurrence of ocular pathology. This study found that neonatal infection of BALB/c mice with MCMV resulted in dissemination of virus to the eye, where it localized principally to choroidal endothelia and pericytes and less frequently to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. MCMV underwent ocular latency, which was associated with expression of multiple virus genes and from which MCMV could be reactivated by immunosuppression. Latent ocular infection was associated with significant up-regulation of several inflammatory/angiogenic factors. Retinal and choroidal pathologies developed in a progressive manner, with deposits appearing at both basal and apical aspects of the RPE, RPE/choroidal atrophy, photoreceptor degeneration, and neovascularization. The pathologies induced by long-term ocular MCMV latency share features of previously described human ocular diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine