Human cytomegalovirus infection impairs endothelial cell chemotaxis by disturbing VEGF signalling and actin polymerization

Barbara Reinhardt, Rinesh Godfrey, Guido Fellbrich, Hedwig Frank, Anke Lueske, Serv Olieslagers, Thomas Mertens*, Johannes Waltenberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection has been linked to the pathogenesis of vasculopathies; however, its pathogenic relevance remains to be established. A prerequisite for vascular repair is endothelial cell migration. We evaluated the influence of HCMV on chemokinesis and chemotactic response of human coronary artery endothelial cells (HCAEC) towards vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). A virus dose-dependent reduction in chemokinesis and VEGF-dependent chemotaxis was observed (P <0.05). UV-inactivated virus did not inhibit chemotaxis or chemokinesis, indicating that viral gene expression is mandatory. We identified two HCMV-induced mechanisms explaining the reduction of chemotaxis: first, a non-ambiguous reduction of VEGFR-2 protein was observed, due to decreased transcription. This protein down-modulation could not be inhibited by Ganciclovir. The remaining VEGFR-2 expressed on infected HCAEC was able to stimulate cell activation. Second, HCMV infection influences actin polymerization in HCAEC as shown by FACS analysis: actin polymerization was significantly reduced to 53 and 51% (P <0.05) compared with non-infected HCAEC at 24 and 72 h p.i., respectively. Genetically and pharmacologically eliminated VEGFR-2 function resulted in a significant (P <0.05) reduction of VEGF-induced activation of actin polymerization. We demonstrated a significant reduction of the chemotactic mobility of HCMV-infected HCAEC mediated by down-modulation of the VEGFR-2 and by inhibition of actin polymerization. This VEGF resistance of HCMV-infected endothelial cells is likely to promote atherogenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-325
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • Endothelial cell
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor
  • Chemotaxis
  • Signal transduction

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