Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), also known as human herpes virus 5 (HHV 5) in recent papers, is a member of herpesviridae family and betaherpesviridae subfamily. HCMV causes the enlargement of its injected host cells (cytomegaly) and induces characteristic inclusion bodies, hence the name. HCMV can be life-threatening for newborn infants and immunocompromised ones (such as HIV patients and organ transplant recipients), but it is unnoticed in most of the health people. The infections of HCMV are mostly associated with the salivary glands, despite the fact that HCMV can be found throughout the body. HCMV is found world-widely and more than 60% of adult populations around the world were infected. This virus may cause mucoepidermoid carcinoma and other cancers such as prostate cancer.
Fig. 1 Electron microscope images of HCMV particles. (Arbeitskreis Blut et al. Clinical Information 2010)
The diameters of mature HCMV particles are 150-200 nm. Genome of HCMV consists of a double-stranded DNA with a length of approximately 230,000 bp. The genome is enclosed by an icosahedral capsid constructed with 162 capsomers. A protein layer named as tegument exists between the capsid and the virus envelope. The virus envelope is derived from cell membranes and contains at least eight different viral glycoproteins in the lipid bilayer. HCMV is sensitive to heat, low pH and lipid-dissolving agents as well as other all herpesviruses.
Fig. 2 Structure model of HCMV particle.
The transmission of HCMV from person to person still remains unclear but was thought to occur through the body fluids, such as saliva, urine, or other bodily fluids. The replication of HCMV happens in the injected endothelial cells at a relatively slow rate, it completes in about five days within cultured cells. The expression of HCMV genes follows a temporally controlled manner. Several genes are expressed in 4 hours after the injection to regulate the transcription of HCMV genes, followed by early genes, which are expressed in 4-48 hours after injection. These early genes are involved in the replication of viral DNA and the further regulation of transcriptions. The later genes are typically code for viral structural proteins and are expressed in a relatively later period. Replication of the viral double-stranded DNA happens in the nucleus of host cells. HCMV encode its own functional DNA polymerase, but it relies on the host cell's RNA polymerase for the transcription of viral genes.
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