Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) significantly reduced the replication of murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) in mouse embryo fibroblasts derived from the susceptible mouse strain C3H/HeJ. When infectious virus production was measured, a strong decrease in virus titer was observed in IFN-treated cells at a multiplicity of infection (moi) of 1 and 0.5 pfu/cell. Analysis of virus-specified mRNAs by Northern blot assay revealed that IFN-alpha had a significant effect on the expression of viral mRNAs at 48h. In particular, the mRNAs of the major immediate early (IE) transcription units, IE1, IE2, and IE3, were impaired by IFN-alpha. In addition, decrease of IE1 mRNA synthesis was accompanied by a reduction of the major IE product (pp89), as revealed by Western blot assay. These results suggest that IFN-alpha may inhibit MCMV replication by directly impairing IE gene transcription.
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