American journal of transplantation : official journal of the American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons

Hcmv-miR-UL22A-5p: A Biomarker in Transplantation With Broad Impact on Host Gene Expression and Potential Immunological Implications.

PMID 25833298


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) encodes multiple microRNAs. While these have been partially characterized in vitro, their relevance to clinical CMV infection has not been evaluated. We analyzed samples from a cohort of solid organ transplant patients with CMV disease (n = 245) for viral microRNA expression. Several CMV microRNAs were readily detectable in patients with CMV disease in variable relative abundance. Expression level generally correlated with DNA viral load and the absence of viral microRNA was associated with faster viral clearance. Detection of hcmv-miR-UL22A-5p at baseline independently predicted the recurrence of CMV viremia upon discontinuation of antiviral therapy (OR 3.024, 95% CI: 1.35-6.8; p = 0.007). A combination of direct mRNA targeting by the microRNA and indirect modulation of gene expression involving isoforms of the transcriptional regulator C-MYC may be responsible for the broad effects seen in the association of gene transcripts with the RNA-induced silencing complex and in global protein expression upon hcmv-miR-UL22A-5p transfection. This novel study of in vivo viral microRNA expression profiles provides unique insight into the complexity of clinical CMV infection following transplantation. We provide evidence that viral microRNAs may have complex effects on gene expression and be associated with specific virologic and clinical outcomes, and thus could be further evaluated as biomarkers.