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Infectious Virus Hides In Human Chromosomes During Latency And Can Be Passed From Parents To Their Children,
Date:3/8/2010

lso be associated with diseases in people with apparently healthy immune systems: encephalitis, mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, myocarditis, and idiopathic cardiomyopathy. While there is no proof that the virus plays a causal role in these diseases, the virus has been found more often in the diseased tissue than in healthy tissue.

Previous studies had used a visual technique called fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), which showed that the viral DNA was present at the same location (near the telomeres) of the same chromosome in both parent and child. This strongly suggested but did not prove that the virus was inherited through the germ line in these children. By determining the DNA sequence of the ends of the chromosome, the Medveczky team clearly demonstrated that the HHV-6 genome was integrated into telomere DNA. The team also showed that HHV-6 DNA, unlike other human herpesviruses, does not curl into a circle inside the nucleus.

The great majority of people, however, do not inherit HHV-6 DNA from their parents and do not have it in every cell of their body. Yet nearly everyone becomes permanently infected with the virus. So Medveczky and colleagues wondered if the virus might take up permanent residence in the body by integrating its DNA into the chromosomes of just some cells.

To examine this possibility, the investigators took cells that had never been exposed to HHV-6 and infected them with HHV-6 that had been engineered to make infected cells glow bright green. Sure enough, once the infection died down, the green cells contained HHV-6 DNA integrated into the ends of the chromosomes. When the investigators stimulated the cells with chemicals known to activate other herpesviruses, cells with integrated viral DNA began producing infectious virus. It will be important to learn whether a similar process occurs during the form of HHV-6 infection that occurs in most individuals.

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