Endothelial cell-tropism- and leukocyte- (polymorphonuclear- and monocyte-) tropism (leukotropism) are two important biological properties shared by all recent clinical isolates of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). These properties are lost during extensive propagation of HCMV isolates in human fibroblasts, as shown by reference laboratory-adapted strains AD169 and Towne. Here we show that strain AD169 may reacquire both properties in vitro, endothelial (both venous and arterial) cell-tropism preceding leukotropism (predominantly involving monocytes). Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and sequencing performed on the original virus inoculum from human fibroblasts and serial passages on endothelial cells confirmed virus identity. Thus, fundamental biological properties may be lost and reacquired in vitro according to the cell culture system employed. The lack of a 15 kb DNA fragment in the strain AD169 genome does not prevent the rescue of these biological functions, thus indicating that they are likely to be encoded by viral genes located elsewhere.
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