In vitro effect of cyclosporin A on primary and chronic BK polyoma virus infection in Vero E6 cells


Philip D. Acott, MD, Dalhousie University, Department of Pediatrics, IWK Health Center, 5850/5980 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3K 6R8 Canada
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Abstract: Cyclosporin A (CsA) is known to possess antiviral activity against several viruses in vitro, but the effect of CsA on BK polyoma virus (BKV) replication has not been examined. We investigated the impact of CsA on primary, chronic, and high-level BKV infection using a cell system of kidney cell origin (Vero E6 cells). During the first 2 h post infection, cells treated with CsA up to 3200 μg/L showed a near-identical BK viral load to untreated cells, with only a very minor reduction in the CsA-treated cells observed at 4 h. In chronic culture, CsA completely suppressed the primary BKV infection peak in a non-dose-dependent manner within the dose range of 200–12,800 μg/L (P<0.05). BKV reactivation was also inhibited in the presence of CsA at doses of 200–3200 μg/L: the mean number of BKV DNA copies/mL remained stable or even decreased slightly compared with a 7-log increase in the non-CsA group (P<0.01). CsA did not influence BKV DNA copies/mL in Vero E6 cells with high-level infection (>109 copies/mL). Cellular protein measurements indicated that the antiviral effect of CsA was not a result of cytotoxicity. These findings from a relevant in vitro kidney cell system indicate that CsA suppresses the primary BKV infection peak and inhibits escape to BKV reactivation; these effects are dose independent and not related to cytotoxicity. The intracellular antiviral mode of action of CsA against BKV does not appear to be via inhibition of viral cell entry pathways.