VIRUS EVOLUTION: Understanding Human Cytomegalovirus by Studying Rhesus Cytomegalovirus (RhCMV)
Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a ubiquitous virus that establishes a lifelong presence in its host. Over time, the virus developed a plethora of mechanisms to evade a host’s immune response including viral chemokine receptor US28. US28 internalizes chemokines and plays an active role in establishing latency and dissemination within the host. Rhesus CMV (RhCMV) is closely related to HCMV allowing it to serve as a practical model system. RhCMV possesses five tandem positional homologs of US28: Rh214, Rh215, Rh216, Rh218 and Rh220 all divergent from each other and US28. To understand their function, each gene was expressed in Human Embryonic Kidney cells. Viral protein expression was confirmed by western blotting and flow cytometry in cells expressing Rh214, Rh215 and Rh216 while efforts to express Rh218 and Rh220 are ongoing. Future studies will examine the effects on cellular gene expression and host immune function. The results will contribute to pharmaceutical advancements for HCMV.