The Journal of general virology

Murine cytomegalovirus strains co-replicate at multiple tissue sites and establish co-persistence in salivary glands in the absence of Ly49H-mediated competition.

PMID 25575707


Infection with multiple genetically distinct strains of pathogen is common and can lead to positive (complementation) or negative (competitive) within-host interactions. These interactions can alter aspects of the disease process and help shape pathogen evolution. Infection of the host with multiple strains of cytomegalovirus (CMV) occurs frequently in humans and mice. Profound, NK-cell-mediated (apparent) competition has been identified in C57BL/6 mice, and prevented the replication and shedding of certain co-infecting CMV strains. However, the frequency of such strong competition has not been established. Other within-host interactions such as complementation or alternative forms of competition remain possible. Moreover, high rates of recombination in both human CMV and murine CMV (MCMV) suggest prolonged periods of viral co-replication, rather than strong competitive suppression. An established model was employed to investigate the different possible outcomes of multi-strain infection in other mouse strains. In this study, co-replication of up to four strains of MCMV in the spleen, liver and salivary glands was observed in both MCMV-susceptible and MCMV-resistant mice. In the absence of apparent competition, no other forms of competition were unmasked. In addition, no evidence of complementation between viral strains was observed. Importantly, co-replication of MCMV strains was apparent for up to 90 days in the salivary glands. These data indicated that competition was not the default outcome of multi-strain CMV infection. Prolonged, essentially neutral, co-replication may be the norm, allowing for multi-strain transmission and prolonged opportunities for recombination.