Murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) does not productively infect OTT6050AF1 BrdU, F9, or PCC4 undifferentiated murine teratocarcinoma cell lines, as shown by immunofluorescence assays for viral antigens and by plaque assays for infectious virus. However, these cells were infected by a variety of other viruses. MCMV does productively infect PYS2 and OTT F12 differentiated murine teratocarcinoma cell lines.

The replication of MCMV in the pluripotent PCC4 cell line was examined in detail. Undifferentiated PCC4 cells could be differentiated when propagated in the presence of dimethylacetamide, as judged by changes in the expression of H-2 antigens on the cell surface. Several viruses, including lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, and vesicular stomatitis virus, replicated to a similar extent in differentiated and undifferentiated PCC4 cells. MCMV did productively infect differentiated PCC4 cells. In contrast, MCMV did not produce infectious virus, viral antigens, or substantial viral RNA in undifferentiated PCC4 cells.

The molecular block of MCMV replication occurred at the level of MCMV RNA transcription. Undifferentiated PCC4 cells have receptors for MCMV and bind similar amounts of radiolabeled virus as differentiated PCC4 cells. After MCMV binds to its receptors on undifferentiated cells, MCMV penetrates the plasma membrane and is transported to the cells' nuclei. MCMV DNA was present in the cytoplasm, and small amounts of MCMV RNA (less than 17 percent of that found in MCMV-infected differentiated PCC4 cells) were found in the nucleus. However, MCMV RNA was not detected in the cytoplasm of undifferentiated cells.

A latent infection was established by infecting undifferentiated PCC4 cells with MCMV, inactivating residual infectivity with antibodies to MCMV, and propagating cells under conditions that maintained the undifferentiated state. These MCMV-infected undifferentiated cells did not produce infectious virus, viral antigens, or viral RNA but did contain viral DNA detectable by DNA-DNA hybridization kinetics. Latency was terminated and infectious virus was made when such undifferentiated cells were induced to differentiate.

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