hCMV-Mediated Immune Escape Mechanisms Favor Pathogen Growth and Disturb the Immune Privilege of the Eye.


Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany. [Email]


Human retinal pigment epithelial (hRPE) cells are important for the establishment and maintenance of the immune privilege of the eye. They function as target cells for human cytomegalovirus (hCMV), but are able to restrict viral replication. hCMV causes opportunistic posterior uveitis such as retinitis and chorioretinitis. Both mainly occur in severely immunocompromised patients and rarely manifest in immunocompetent individuals. In this study, hRPE cells were infected with hCMV in vitro and activated with proinflammatory cytokines. The enzymatic activities of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-1 (IDO1) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) were determined. The antimicrobial capacity of both molecules was analyzed in co-infection experiments using Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Toxoplasmagondii (T. gondii), causing uveitis in patients. We show that an hCMV infection of hRPE cells blocks IDO1 and iNOS mediated antimicrobial defense mechanisms necessary for the control of S. aureus and T. gondii. hCMV also inhibits immune suppressive effector mechanisms in hRPE. The interferon gamma-induced IDO1 dependent immune regulation was severely blocked, as detected by the loss of T cell inhibition. We conclude that an active hCMV infection in the eye might favor the replication of pathogens causing co-infections in immunosuppressed individuals. An hCMV caused blockade of IDO1 might weaken the eye's immune privilege and favor the development of post-infectious autoimmune uveitis.


Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-1,Staphylococcus aureus,Toxoplasma gondii,chorioretinitis,human cytomegalovirus,human retinal pigment epithelial cells,inducible nitric oxide synthase,ocular toxoplasmosis,retinitis,uveitis,