Occult cytomegalovirus in vivarium-housed mice may influence transplant allograft acceptance.
Thomas AC., Forster MR., Bickerstaff AA., Zimmerman PD., Wing BA., Trgovcich J., Bergdall VK., Klenerman P., Cook CH.
We have recently shown that latent murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) can influence murine transplant allograft acceptance. During these studies we became aware that vivarium-housed control mice can acquire occult MCMV infection. The purpose of this investigation was to confirm occult MCMV transmission and determine the timing, vehicle, and possible consequences of transmission. Mice arriving from a commercial vendor were negative for MCMV both by commercial serologic testing and by our nested PCR. Mice housed in our vivarium became positive for MCMV DNA 30-60 days after arrival, but remained negative for MCMV by commercial serologic testing. To confirm MCMV we sequenced PCR products for several genes and showed >99% homology to MCMV. Further sequence analyses show that the occult MCMV is similar to a laboratory strain of MCMV, but the vehicle of transmission remains unclear. Control tissues from historical experiments with unexplained graft losses were evaluated for occult MCMV, and mice with unexplained allograft losses showed significantly higher incidence of occult MCMV than did allograft acceptors. Deliberate infection with very low titer MCMV confirmed that viral transmission can occur without measurable virus specific antibody or T-cell responses. These data suggest that vivarium-housed mice can develop occult MCMV that is missed by currently available commercial serologic testing, and that these infections may influence transplant allograft acceptance.