Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is a potentially immunosuppressive CD4 +-T-lymphotropic betaherpesvirus that causes severe human thymocyte depletion in heterochimeric SCID-hu thy/liv mice and has been implicated as a potential cofactor in the progression of AIDS. However, the mechanisms of HHV-6-mediated immunosuppression have not yet been fully elucidated. We investigated the phenotypic and functional alterations induced by HHV-6 on peripheral blood-derived human dendritic cells (DC). The infection of DC with HHV-6 A or B was nonproductive, as revealed by calibrated real-time PCR measuring the accumulation of viral genome equivalents over time. Nevertheless, preexposure to HHV-6 markedly impaired the maturation of DC driven by gamma interferon and lipopolysaccharide, as shown by the reduced surface expression of major histocompatibility complex class 1 molecules, HLA-DR, CD40, and CD80. Moreover, HHV-6, but not the closely related betaherpesvirus HHV-7, dramatically suppressed the secretion of interleukin-12 (IL-12) p70 by DC, while the production of other cytokines that influence DC maturation, i.e., IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, was not significantly modified. Likewise, the secretion of the CC chemokines macrophage inflammatory protein 1β and RANTES was unaltered. Functionally, a pretreatment with HHV-6 impaired the ability of DC to stimulate allogeneic T-cell proliferation. Altogether, these data identify interference with the functional maturation of DC as a potential mechanism of HHV-6-mediated immunosuppression.
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