Pathogenesis of human cytomegalovirus infection and cellular targets

Giuseppe Gerna, Fausto Baldanti, M. Grazia Revello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients with human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), disseminated infection, and end-organ disease, autopsy findings show a generalized HCMV infection of endothelial cells. On the other hand, immunocompromised transplanted patients show presence of virus and virus products in peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL), when affected by a disseminated HCMV infection. All diagnostic assays are based on the detection of virus and viral components in PBL or whole blood, including polymorphonuclear leukocytes and monocytes. The interplay between endothelial cells and leukocytes represents the pathogenetic basis for all clinical syndromes originating during disseminated HCMV infections and is the trigger for the transmission of HCMV from mother to fetus during primary infections of pregnant women. The two biologic properties of endothelial cell tropism and leukocyte (polymorphonuclear- and monocyte-) tropism are shared by all recent clinical HCMV isolates, whereas they are missing in laboratory-adapted strains. The potential role of HCMV in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis both in the immunocompetent (after angioplasty) and the heart transplant patient is receiving support from seroepidemiologic findings, in vivo animal models, in vitro data, and also some clinical observations. The interaction of endothelial cells and leukocytes with subsequent spreading of infection to smooth muscle cells may be a major pathogenetic mechanism at the basis of this important vascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-386
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Immunology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2004


  • atherosclerosis
  • chemokines
  • endothelial cells
  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • leukocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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