In vivo characterization of cytokine profiles and viral load during murine cytomegalovirus-induced acute myocarditis

Jethro Trees Ritter, Yajarayma J. Tang-Feldman, G. Raymond Lochhead, Marko Estrada, Stephanie Lochhead, Cindy Yu, Amanda Ashton-Sager, Dipika Tuteja, Christian Leutenegger, Claire Pomeroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) is an etiologic agent of acute and chronic myocarditis in BALB/c mice. Immunologic host responses appear to play a key role in pathogenesis but have been incompletely defined. Methods: BALB/c mice were infected with a sublethal dose of MCMV. Cytokine transcription and viral load (measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction) and histopathological analyses were performed at specified time points. Results: Increased tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-6, and interferon (IFN)-γ, as well as IL-10 mRNA transcripts, were detected in the hearts of infected mice starting at Day 1 post-infection (p.i.), with peak levels occurring at Day 8 p.i. (7-fold, 14-fold, 41-fold, and 16-fold higher than background, respectively). Peak cytokine transcription significantly correlated with a 10-fold increase in viral load (P<.001) at Day 8 p.i. Myocarditis-related pathological changes, measured by infiltration foci, were greatest at Day 8 p.i., corresponding with peak cytokine transcription and significantly correlated with IFN-γ levels (P<.0001). Infiltration foci were predominantly composed of CD3+ T cells. Cardiac calcification was observed in most infected mice predominantly over the right ventricle. Histological analysis of heart sections from mice infected with recombinant enhanced green fluorescence protein-MCMV revealed a localized and sporadic pattern of virus throughout all heart layers. Conclusions: MCMV-induced myocarditis in BALB/c mice is characterized by in vivo production of proinflammatory cytokines in a pattern correlating with MCMV viral load. The infection pattern and inflammatory response is highly localized, sporadic, and involves endocardium, epicardium, as well as the myocardium, with greatest amounts of virus detected in areas of pathologic calcification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalCardiovascular Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Calcification
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation
  • MCMV
  • Myocarditis
  • T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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