Human polyomavirus JC (JCV) infects 80% of the population worldwide. Primary infection, typically occurring during childhood, is asymptomatic in immunocompetent individuals and results in lifelong latency and persistent infection. However, among the severely immunocompromised, JCV may cause a fatal demyelinating disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Virus-host interactions influencing persistence and pathogenicity are not well understood, although significant regulation of JCV activity is thought to occur at the level of transcription. Regulation of the JCV early and late promoters during the lytic cycle is a complex event that requires participation of both viral and cellular factors. We have used cDNA microarray technology to analyze global alterations in gene expression in JCV-permissive primary human fetal glial cells (PHFG). Expression of more than 400 cellular genes was altered, including many that influence cell proliferation, cell communication and interferon (IFN)-mediated host defense responses. Genes in the latter category included signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1), interferon stimulating gene 56 (ISG56), myxovirus resistance 1 (MxA), 2′5′- oligoadenylate synthetase (OAS), and cig5. The expression of these genes was further confirmed in JCV-infected PHFG cells and the human glioblastoma cell line U87MG to ensure the specificity of JCV in inducing this strong antiviral response. Results obtained by real-time RT-PCR and Western blot analyses supported the microarray data and provide temporal information related to virus-induced changes in the IFN response pathway. Our data indicate that the induction of an antiviral response may be one of the cellular factors regulating/controlling JCV replication in immunocompetent hosts and therefore constraining the development of PML.
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