Endothelial cells are important targets for herpesvirus infection. To evaluate the biological effects of human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) infection, adult heart microvascular and aortic endothelial cells were examined for in vitro susceptibility to HHV-6 and for the alterations induced by viral infection on the production of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and interleukin-8 (IL-8). Analysis by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and by in situ polymerase chain reaction showed that HHV-6 replicates in endothelium in the absence of cytopathic effects, and that viral sequences were present in 20% umbilical vein and in 10% aortic and 1% microvascular endothelium. HHV-6 infection upregulated the production of MCP-1 and IL-8, with differences observed between aortic and microvascular endothelium. These findings demonstrate that endothelial cells represent a potential reservoir for HHV-6 infection, and the altered pattern of chemokine production can lead to attraction of immunocompetent cells and to the development of inflammatory processes.
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