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Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a betaherpesvirus that is a significant pathogen within newborn and immunocompromised populations. Morbidity associated with HCMV infection is the consequence of viral dissemination. HCMV has evolved to manipulate the host immune system to enhance viral dissemination and ensure long-term survival within the host. The immunomodulatory protein vCXCL-1, a viral chemokine functioning primarily through the CXCR2 chemokine receptor, is hypothesized to attract CXCR2+ neutrophils to infection sites, aiding viral dissemination. Neutrophils harbor HCMV in vivo; however, the interaction between vCXCL-1 and the neutrophil has not been evaluated in vivo. Using the mouse model and mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection, we show that murine neutrophils harbor and transfer infectious MCMV and that virus replication initiates within this cell type. Utilizing recombinant MCMVs expressing vCXCL-1 from the HCMV strain (Toledo), we demonstrated that vCXCL-1 significantly enhances MCMV dissemination kinetics. Through cellular depletion experiments, we observe that neutrophils impact dissemination but that overall dissemination is largely neutrophil independent. This work adds neutrophils to the list of innate cells (i.e., dendritic and macrophages/monocytes) that contribute to MCMV dissemination but refutes the hypothesis that neutrophils are the primary cell responding to vCXCL-1.


This article was published openly thanks to the University of Tennessee Open Publishing Support Fund.

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