Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) may cause disseminated/end-organ disease in congenitally infected newborns and immunosuppressed transplant recipients. Two glycoprotein complexes, gH/gL/gO and gH/gL/pUL128/pUL130/pUL131 (gH/gL/ pUL128L; referred to as the pentamer), are required for HCMV entry into fibroblasts and endothelial/epithelial cells, respectively, in the presence of the viral fusion protein gB. In addition, gH/gL/gO was recently reported to also be required for infection of endothelial/epithelial cells. Virus entry into human fibroblasts involves fusion of the virus envelope with the plasma membrane, whereas entry into endothelial/epithelial cells involves macropinocytosis or endocytosis and low-pH-dependent fusion with endosomes. A large set of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), directed to gH, gB, and multiple components of the pentamer, was developed. In addition, novel anti-gO human monoclonal antibodies were recently isolated. It is known that epithelial cell infection with a wild HCMV strain at a high multiplicity of infection produces a large number of syncytia. Incubation of heavily HCMV VR1814-infected ARPE-19 epithelial cells with neutralizing MAbs to one, two, or three components of the pUL128L portion of the pentamer blocked syncytium formation at an antibody concentration of 10 μg/ml, whereas only a partial inhibitory effect was displayed for MAbs to gO, gH, or gB at the same concentration. A blocking effect was also exhibited by convalescent-phase sera from primary HCMV infections. These findings indicate that the pentamer is required for syncytium formation in epithelial cells.
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