Human Cytomegalovirus Infection Leads to Elevated Levels of Transplant Arteriosclerosis in a Humanized Mouse Aortic Xenograft Model


Stephan M. Ensminger,


Recent findings emphasized an important role of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection in the development of transplant arteriosclerosis. Therefore, the aim of this study was to develop a human peripheral blood lymphocyte (hu-PBL)/Rag-2–/–γc–/– mouse-xenograft-model to investigate both immunological as well as viral effector mechanisms in the progression of transplant arteriosclerosis. For this, sidebranches from the internal mammary artery were recovered during coronary artery bypass graft surgery, tissue-typed and infected with HCMV. Then, size-matched sidebranches were implanted into the infrarenal aorta of Rag-2–/–γc–/– mice. The animals were reconstituted with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) 7 days after transplantation. HCMV-infection was confirmed by Taqman-PCR and immunofluorescence analyses. Arterial grafts were analyzed by histology on day 40 after transplantation. PBMC-reconstituted Rag-2–/–γc–/– animals showed splenic chimerism levels ranging from 1–16% human cells. After reconstitution, Rag-2–/–γc–/– mice developed human leukocyte infiltrates in their grafts and vascular lesions that were significantly elevated after infection. Cellular infiltration revealed significantly increased ICAM-1 and PDGF-R-β expression after HCMV-infection of the graft. Arterial grafts from unreconstituted Rag-2–/–γc–/– recipients showed no vascular lesions. These data demonstrate a causative relationship between HCMV-infection as an isolated risk factor and the development of transplant-arteriosclerosis in a humanized mouse arterial-transplant-model possibly by elevated ICAM-1 and PDGF-R-β expression.