BACKGROUND. Reactivation of latent human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is a significant risk factor for long term allograft dysfunction. The molecular pathways involved in reactivation of latent virus have not been identified. Previous studies suggested that tumor necrosis factor (TNF) -mediated activation of nuclear factor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B-cells (NF-κB) leading to transcriptional reactivation of viral immediate early (ie) gene expression might be important in transplant-associated viral reactivation. CMV IE gene expression is controlled by the major immediate early promoter/enhancer (MIEP). Because HCMV does not infect mice, transgenic mice carrying a β-galactosidase reporter gene under the control of the HCMV immediate early enhancer (MIEP-lacZ mice) are a valuable model for studying regulation of CMV IE gene expression in vivo. We have used TNF receptor-deficient MIEP-lacZ (MIEP-lacZ TNFR DKO) mice to study the requirement for TNF in transplant-induced activation of the MIEP. METHODS. Allogenic kidney transplants were performed using MIEP-lacZ TNFR DKO or MIEP-lacZ TNFRwild-type donor mice. β-Galactosidase activity was used to measure activation of the IE enhancer in donor kidneys at 2 days of posttransplantation and in contralateral controls. Transcription factor activation was assayed with Trans-Am kits. RESULTS. Allogenic and syngenic transplantation activate the HCMV IE enhancer to the same extent. TNF receptor signaling was not required for activation of the MIEP. TNF receptor signaling was required for activation of NF-κB, but not for activation of activating protein 1 family members junD and Fra-1 in day 2 allografts. CONCLUSIONS. TNF-independent pathways can activate the enhancer in response to allogenic transplantation. This may occur through activation of MIEP-binding transcription factors other than NF-κB.
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