Patterns of transcription of human cytomegalovirus in permissively infected cells

DeMarchi, J.M.; Schmidt, C.A.; Kaplan, A.S.

Journal of Virology 35(2): 277-286


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-538X
PMID: 6160258
Accession: 006075923

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The rate of accumulation of cytomegalovirus transcripts in permissively infected human embryonic lung (HEL) cells was analyzed at various times after infection by hybridization of infected cell RNA to undigested or restriction endonuclease-digested cytomegalovirus DNA fixed to nitrocellulose filters. Differences in patterns of transcript accumulation were determined by measuring the abundance levels of RNA which hybridized to different HindIII-, XbaI-, or EcoRI-generated fragments of cytomegalovirus DNA. The results showed that a small but significant amount of cytomegalovirus RNA was detectable within the first 3 h after infection and that the rate of accumulation of these transcripts was static during the first 24 h, but increased thereafter. In general, the viral transcripts accumulating in infected cells could be divided into three classes. Immediate-early RNA (synthesized in the absence of protein synthesis in infected cells) hybridizes predominantly to a very restricted part of the genome and can be identified during the first 2 to 4 h postinfection. Early RNA (synthesized up to about 24 h after infection) originates from most regions of the genome but is characterized by the presence of transcripts which hybridize in great abundance to certain fragments. Late RNA (synthesized after 24 h, i.e., after the onset of viral DNA synthesis) hybridizes in approximately equal abundance to most regions of the viral genome. These results showed that a block in the transition from immediate-early to early RNA did not account for the extended period of time that elapses between the time of infection and the initiation of viral DNA synthesis. Interestingly, despite rapid adsorption and penetration and a static level of accumulation of transcripts in the cultures during the first 24 h, the number of cells that synthesized detectable amounts of viral antigens increased steadily during this time.