Corneal endothelial cells activate innate and acquired arm of anti-viral responses after cytomegalovirus infection

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Abstract

Infection of the corneal endothelial cells by human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an important cause of corneal endotheliitis. CMV endotheliitis is difficult to completely cure and relapses are frequent. This can cause blinding corneal bullous keratopathy. However, the pathogenesis of CMV endotheliitis remains undetermined. To understand the immunopathology of endotheliitis, we examined how corneal endothelial cells prime the anti-viral immunity after CMV infection based on global transcriptional responses. To accomplish this, human corneal endothelial (HCEn) cells were infected with CMV, and the global transcriptional responses were determined by microarray analyses for primary anti-viral responses using network analysis. Real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and protein array analyses were used to examine whether anti-viral cytokines were induced, i.e., to determine whether innate immune responses were activated. To examine whether priming of acquired immune response was activated, CMV-infected HCEn cells were co-cultured with allogeneic CD8+ T cells from CMV seropositive donors and tested for priming activity for the CD8+ effector T cells by measuring interferon-γ secretion. The CMV-induced responses of HCEn cells were characterized by type I interferon and pattern recognition receptor pathways which represent innate immune priming. The global transcriptional activation was specifically associated with antigen presentation with the antimicrobial response functions. Protein array analyses indicated a significant increase in the secretion of anti-viral inflammatory cytokines including CXCL10 as innate immune responses. When HCEn cells were examined to determine whether CMV infection activated anti-viral acquired immunity, CMV-infected HCEn cells directly stimulated the proliferation of CD8+ T cells from CMV-seropositive donors, and pp65 viral epitope induced interferon-γ secretion from the CD8+ T cells. We conclude that CMV-infected HCEn cells induce innate immune priming along with provisions of acquired immune priming of CD8+ effector T cells. This information should help in the development of useful diagnostic procedures and efficacious therapeutic strategy to treat refractory corneal endotheliitis.

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