Reactivation of latent human cytomegalovirus is a significant infectious complication of organ transplantation and current therapies target viral replication once reactivation of latent virus has already occurred. The specific molecular pathways that activate viral gene expression in response to transplantation are not well understood. Our studies aim to identify these factors, with the goal of developing novel therapies that prevent transcriptional reactivation in transplant recipients. Murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) is a valuable model for studying latency and reactivation of CMV in vivo. We previously demonstrated that transplantation of MCMV-latently infected kidneys into allogeneic recipients induces reactivation of immediate early (IE) gene expression and epigenetic reprogramming of the major immediate early promoter (MIEP) within 48 h. We hypothesize that these events are mediated by activation of signalling pathways that lead to binding of transcription factors to the MIEP, including AP-1 and NF-k B. Here we show that transplantation induces rapid activation of several members of the AP-1 and NF-kB transcription factor family and we demonstrate that canonical NF-kB (p65/p50), the junD component of AP-1, and nucleosome remodelling complexes are recruited to the MIEP following transplantation. Proteomic analysis of recipient plasma and transcriptome analysis of kidney RNA identified five extracellular ligands, including TNF, IL-1b, IL-18, CD40L and IL-6, and three intracellular signalling pathways associated with reactivation of IE gene expression. Identification of the factors that mediate activation of these signalling pathways may eventually lead to new therapies to prevent reactivation of CMV and its sequelae.
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