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Antibodies to varicella-zoster virus modulate antigen distribution but fail to induce viral persistence in vitro.


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OF p.7499-7504 0022-538X/92/127499-06$02.00/0

Copyright© 1992,American Societyfor Microbiology

Vol. 66,No. 12




Varicella-Zoster Virus Modulate Antigen

Distribution but Fail To Induce Viral






Fundamental Virology Unit, Departmentof MicrobiologyB23,




4000 Sart


Licge, Belgium

Received 23 March 1992/Accepted 28 August 1992

Varicella-zoster vwirus (VZV) persists in human sensory ganglia. One of the hypotheses to explain the inductionorthe maintenance of VZVlatencyis thatit could be promoted by the immuneresponseitself. It is known that in thecaseofviruseswhichbud off the infectedcell membrane, virus-specific antibodiescaninduce antigenic modulation, i.e., spatial redistribution of viral antigens and modulation of their synthesis. To determine whetherantigenicmodulationoccursduring VZV infectionin vitro and couldpossiblybeinvolved

in viral persistence,wehavegrowninfectedcells in thepresenceof anti-VZV antibodies eithertransientlyor permanently. The distribution of immune complexes and viral proteins was then analyzed. In transient

immunomodulation experiments, thedistribution ofone or moreviral antigenswasmodifiednot onlyinthe cytoplasmic membranes but also in the cytoplasm and nucleoplasm of infectedcells.When infectedcellswere

kept permanently in thepresenceof antibodies, thesamepatternof redistribution ofimmune complexeswas

observed andthe localization ofinternal viral glycoproteinswassignificantlymodified. However, antibodies did

not prevent the ytic effect of infection; they altered neither the infectious virus yield nor the Western

immunoblot pattern ofviralproteins, suggesting that immunomodulation isnottheprimaryeffector of viral persistence.

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a human herpesvirus

which causes a primary infection in childhood, becomes

latent in dorsal root ganglia, and can be reactivated many yearslatertoproduce shinglesinadults(10).Investigation of

mechanismsbywhichviruses becomepersistent andremain latent in infected cells progresses along two paths: (i)

searches foraviral gene that isdirectlyorindirectly respon-sible for latency and (ii) identification of host factors that

induce viral latency. In the latter case, the main factor of interest isthehost immune system. It has been shown that

bothinvitroand in


persistence ofavirus which buds attheplasmamembrane ofinfected cellscanbe induced by

the presence of antiviral antibodies at the time of virus



Antibodytreatment caninduce a

redis-tribution of membrane antigens which are assembled in patches and thenin caps, ashas been welldocumented for

enveloped viruses buddingattheplasma



measles virus (8, 9, 13,


a retrovirus


or influenza virus (24). Studies ofmeasles virus have demonstratedthat

the effect ofantibodies onthe viral


cycle isnot restrictedto amechanical hindrance of thebuddingprocess. In fact, antibodies modulate through an unknown mecha-nismthe


ofthe viral



on the cell surface beforebudding (5-7, 14). Regulationof gene

expressionhas also been described foraparvovir'us


and a coronavirus


Thephenomenon of

specific regulation


*Corresponding author.

gene expressionby antibodieswasfirstdescribed for cellular structuralproteins and calledimmunomodulation by

Stack-pole etal. (25). Such an immunomodulating effectonviral genetranscriptioncould lead to persistence (17) and could account, on amdlecularbasis,for the data obtained for the induction ofpersistence by antibodypressure.

At first sight, such a phenomenon may seem rather

un-likelyforvirusesof thefamilyHerpesviridae,sincetheyare

known to mature at the inner nuclear membrane and in

cytoplasmicvesicles. However, viralglycoproteins are

ex-pressed on the plasma membrane during infection. These

proteins do not participate in the


of the viral

particle,buttheyarefullyaccessible and can thus be targets forantiviral antibodies. During latency, highanti-VZV


levels can be detected (2), but their role in the

inductionormaintenance ofa quiescentstate is unknown.

Indeed,in thecaseofherpessimplexvirus


it isnot

clear whether the





virus-inducedFc receptorsplays(4)ordoesnot



arole in the inhibition of virusgrowth. Even thoughour


studies can only mimic the in vivo


it is worth


the direct effect of antibodies on the course of viralinfection. We havethustestedthe immunomodulation hypothesis inorder to confirm it or to rule it out, at least under in vitro conditions.

MRC-5 cells

(human embryonic



Bi-om6rieux, Marcy I'Etoile,


weremaintained in

Ea-gle's basal medium





N.Y.) supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum, 100 U of 7499

by on November 25, 2009



TABLE 1. Molecularweightsandidentities ofpolypeptides recognized bymonoclonalantibodies

Monoclonad Molwt




Biosoft215-84/101 49 and 39 gpII

VL1 49and 39 gpII

VL8 70, 63, and 57 gpl

penicillin per ml, 100 mg ofstreptomycinperml, and0.15% NaHCO3.

The originalstrain of VZVusedinthisstudywas isolated by sterile aspiration of vesicular lesions of a patient with chicken pox. Restriction analysis of the purified DNA showed the typical pattern of VZV Ellen strain. Infection waspropagated by cocultivationofMRC-5cells with VZV-infected MRC-5 cells(ratioof 1infected cellto3 uninfected cells).

Human anti-VZVantibodies wereprepared by ammonium

sulfate precipitation of a non-convalescent-phase human

plasma with high anti-VZV antibody activity (>12,800 in enzyme immunoassay) and dialysis at 4° C in

phosphate-buffered saline(PBS).Anti-VZVrabbithyperimmuneserum was obtained by immunization with VZV purified from infected MRC-5 cells followedbythree steps ofabsorption

on uninfected cells to decrease reactivity against nonviral

antigens. Monoclonal antibodieswere either obtained from

Biosoft (Paris, France) (215-84/101) or produced in our

laboratory (VL1 and VL8). The molecular weights of the viralpolypeptides recognized by thesemonoclonal

antibod-iesarelisted in Table 1. Thespecificityof eachantiserumor monoclonal antibody was verified by immunohistology or Westernblotting (immunoblotting) analysisoninfected and uninfected cells.

MRC-5 cells infected bycocultivationwithVZV-infected

ormock-infected cells were treated with human anti-VZV

antibodies(1/20in cellculturemedium)eithertransiently (2

h) orpermanently(for72h) (Fig. 1).

Viral antigens were detected by surface immunolabeling

on cells fixed with 4%(wt/vol)paraformaldehyde in PBS (pH

7.6) (20 min at20° C). For intracellular labeling, cellswere

fixed in acetone for 5 min (-20° C), dried, and stored at

-20° C until use or fixed in paraformaldehyde, permeated

with95% ethanol(15min at -20° C),andstoredat4° C.Just before use,cellswererehydratedin PBS at 20° Cfor 5 min. Aftersaturationwith skimmed milk(15g/literinPBS)for 30 min at20° C,viralantigenswerelabeledbyincubation either with rabbit anti-VZVantibody(1:50inPBS, 60minat37° C)

orwith a monoclonalantibodyor ahumanplasmawithhigh anti-VZV antibody activity (1:40 in PBS, 60 min at 37° C).

After four washes with PBS, endogenous


was inactivated by a treatment with 0.03% (vol/vol) hydrogen peroxideinPBSfor 15 min. Then goat anti-rabbit

immuno-globulin (Ig), rabbit anti-mouse IgG, or rabbit anti-human IgG antibodycoupled to peroxidase (Dako, Glostrup,

Den-mark)(1:40inPBS, 60 min at37° C)wasadded. The presence ofperoxidasewasrevealedwith diaminobenzidine tetrachlo-ride (0.5 mg/ml in PBS) and 0.01% (vol/vol) hydrogen peroxide.

Viral antigens were analyzed by Western blotting (26).

They wereproducedfrominfected cellsbywashingthe cells several times with serum-freeculturemedium, mechanically scraping the cells off the plastic substrate in PBS, and

centrifugating the cells for 10 min at 400 x g. Thepellets corresponding to 75 cm2 of cells were then resuspended

either in 0.5 ml of RIPAmixture(12)orin thesamevolume

of PBS prior to ultrasonication for 1 min.


the material was centrifuged at 200 x g for 15 min. Antigens

were treated 1:1 (vol/vol) in a denaturing mix (0.125 M

Tris-HCl [pH 6.8], 4%


sodium dodecyl sulfate

[SDS], 20%


glycerol, 10%


,B-mercaptoeth-anol, 5%




and then heated at 100° C for 90 s.Samples(3.75,ug ofproteins[16]ineachwell)





-26 -2-10123 6 12 24 48h T.. III I I I A.&w&= ^ ^ ^ I





-2 0 24 48 72 96 140 240h



IIonI I immunomodulation

FIG. 1. Schematic representation of transient (A) and permanent (B) immunomodulation

corresponds to duration of antibody treatment. Arrowheads indicate times of sample fixation. treatment protocols. The thick arrow

by on November 25, 2009



NOTES 7501



FIG. 2. Detection of antigen-antibody complexesonthesurface of VZV-infectedcellscultured with anti-VZV human antibodies for 2 h (transient immunomodulation). The complexes were detected by immunoperoxidase with a rabbit peroxidase-labeled anti-human Ig (Dako) oncells fixed 0(A),1(B),or3(C) h after immunomodulation treatment. Patches (arrows) and a cap (arrowhead) are indicated. Magnification, x240.

were applied onpolyacrylamide gels (4%


in 0.5 M

Tris-HCl [pH 6.8]for thestackinggels; 8%


in 1.5 M


[pH 8.8]

for the separating gels). Electrophoresis

was run at 150 V in0.025 M Tris (pH


M glycine-0.1% (wt/vol) SDS. Proteins were transferred onto an

Im-mobilon membrane


in aBiolyondry electroblot-ter


the manufacturer's instructions


h at24


Transient immunomodulation experiments were per-formed to verify whether antibodies could bind to viral

antigensonlivingcells and could thusinduce modifications

of viralexpression.Humananti-VZVantibodieswereadded tothe culture medium24hafter



h, and then removed (Fig. 1A). Mock-infected cells were

cultured and treated in the same way. The fate of antigen-antibodycomplexeswasmonitored.Whencultured infected

cells wereexposedtoantibodies specific of their membrane


the immune complexes formed either were internalized (15) or remained on the cell membrane (20).

When cellswere fixedatvarious times after immunomodu-lation and then incubated with rabbit anti-human IgG

anti-bodies coupledtoperoxidase


(1/40 in PBS,60 minat

37° C),



were neverdetected onthe sur-faceof uninfectedcells, and atypical




effect was observed on infected cells. The presence of membranous

antigen-antibody complexes




immunomodulation treatment was observed

by using


la-1 4w . It TO 0 " 1. .@. .M5,, Ir:4,I-,. I - X,.'. 'S. fa by on November 25, 2009 jvi.asm.org Downloaded from


FIG. 3. Immunoperoxidase labeling of viral antigen with a mono-clonal antibody (Biosoft 215-84/101) on VZV-infected cells. Cells were cultured without (A) or with (B and C) anti-VZV human antibodies for 2h, rinsed, and then fixed with acetoneimmediately (B)orafter 1 h(C).Magnification, x440.

beled anti-human Ig antibody. Such complexes were homo-geneously distributed on the cell surface immediately after antibody treatment (Fig. 2A). If cells were allowed to recoverafter treatment, immune complexes formed patches randomly scatteredon the surface (Fig. 2B) and then

gath-ered in a cap (Fig. 2C). Endocytosis followed; no labeling was detected after paraformaldehydefixation, whereas

cy-toplasmic labelingwas observed after acetonefixation,after which there was almost complete clearance of complexes

from the cells.

Theeffect ofantibodytreatmentwassignificant whenfree

antigenic sites were observed byimmunoperoxidase

label-ing. The moststriking observationwasthe profound modi-ficationof the localization of viralepitopes recognizedbyan

anti-gpIImonoclonalantibody afterthetransienttreatment. Inuntreatedcells,anepitopewith anuclear andcytoplasmic

distribution was observed (Fig. 3A). This distribution be-cameexclusively cytoplasmic when cells were cultured for 2 h in the presence of anti-VZV antibodies (Fig. 3B). When

antibodies were washed away, it took only 60min for the

epitope localizationtobecome nuclearagain (Fig.3C). This modificationof viralepitope localizationwasconfirmed with

ananti-gpI monoclonalantibody.

However, viral proteinexpressionwas unchanged quali-tatively and perhaps only slightly delayed by transient

immunomodulation; the anti-gpIImonoclonal antibodies re-vealed two major bands (49 and 39 kDa) in Western blot

analysis of VZV-infected MRC-5 cells, even in untreated

cells and cells transiently treated with human anti-VZV antibodies(Fig. 4). In the same way, nomodificationof the expression of viralproteins recognized by rabbit anti-VZV

hyperimmune serumhas beendetected.

Thesetransientimmunomodulationexperimentsindicated that underthe conditions described, antibodiesreactedwith

luntreated 1 49K 39K


S~ ~


15 20 25 30 35 40 45

migration(in mm)

FIG. 4. Electrophoretic profile of viral antigens revealed after Western blotting. Cells were cultured without or with anti-VZV

human antibodiesduring2 h and recovered 48 hafter infection. Viral polypeptidesweredetected withananti-gpIImonoclonalantibody.


.~A . ;:A f. '.. I.. #'L::'Vols,k M'. 1'.. ... .... ... ... .... 4. A" W ll.Ea 4i, by on November 25, 2009 jvi.asm.org Downloaded from


NOTES 7503 A 8 0


15 20 25 30 35 40 45 migration(in mm) B 8 .0 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 migration(inmm)

FIG. 5. Electrophoretic profile of viral antigens revealed after Western blotting. Cells were cultured without or with anti-VZV human antibodiesduring48hand then recovered. Viralpolypeptides were detected withananti-gpII monoclonal antibody (A) or a rabbit anti-VZV hyperimmuneserum(B).

viral antigens on infected cells in such a manner that they

could inducesignificant modificationsin these cells. Perma-nent immunomodulation experiments could then be

under-taken. Infected andmock-infected cellswerecultured in the presence of human anti-VZV antibodies for various times

and thenfixed (Fig. 1B). The effectsofimmunomodulation

werestudiedby searchingfor immune complexes on the cell surface,modificationsof localization andexpressionof viral

polypeptides, andproductionofinfectiousvirus. The same

pattern of redistribution of immune complexes on the cell surfacewasobserved, andmodifications of thelocalization

of internal viralglycoproteins occurredasin transient treat-ment.


of viralpolypeptides after 48 h of culture in the presence of anti-VZV antibodies was qualitatively unmodified, asindicated byWestern blotting analysiswith

TABLE 2. Infectivity after permanent immunomodulation

Antibody Duration(h)of Infectivity

treatment immunomodulation (PFU/106cells)


+ 48 1,500


+ 72 8,000

an anti-gpII monoclonal antibody (Fig. SA) or with rabbit anti-VZV antibodies(Fig. SB). Anyquantitative differences

thatappearedseemedtoreflectvariations in theevolutionof

infectionin cell cultures.

Treated and untreated cells were scraped, pelleted, and

ultrasonicated. Supernatantswereinoculatedon uninfected


cells,and fociwerecounted after4 days. Infectious titers remained unchanged and evolved similarly whether cellshad been treatedornot(Table 2).

Our data indicate that antibody treatment of infected



although playing

adramaticrole in the intrac-ellularlocalization of viralglycoproteins, has,


noapparent effectonviral maturation and assembly. Since

polypeptides present at the cell surface and capable of

interacting with antibodies during immunomodulation treat-ment areglycoproteins,weusedantiglycoproteinantibodies for characterization of the immunomodulation effects. How-ever, it remains possible that a change in expression or

localization of nonglycosylated polypeptides occurs in re-sponse to antibody pressure, but in this case, it does not seem to alter production of infectious


Such an immunomodulation treatment is thus obviously unable to induce persistent VZV infection in vitro. The correlation betweenthe permanent presence of anti-VZVantibodies in

body fluids during the latent


of infection and the

VOL.66, 1992

by on November 25, 2009



induction of a quiescent state is thus weakened by our observations. However, ourfindings do notexclude a role for humoral immunity in maintaining VZV latency once it hasbeen induced.

While performing this work, P.M. and L.L. were grantees of IRSIA; C.S.-D., M.-P.M.-L., and J.P. are, respectively,aresearch assistant,a researchassociate, andaseniorresearch associateofthe NationalFund forScientific Research, Brussels, Belgium.Wethank the NFSR, FMRS, and National Lottery of Belgium for financial support.


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by on November 25, 2009



FIG. 1. Schematic representation of transient (A) and permanent (B) immunomodulation
FIG. 2. Detection of antigen-antibody complexes on the surface of VZV-infected cells cultured with anti-VZV human antibodies for 2 h (transient immunomodulation)
FIG. 3. Immunoperoxidase labeling of viral antigen with a mono- mono-clonal antibody (Biosoft 215-84/101) on VZV-infected cells
FIG. 5. Electrophoretic profile of viral antigens revealed after Western blotting. Cells were cultured without or with anti-VZV human antibodies during 48 h and then recovered


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