Genomic Programming of Human Neonatal Dendritic Cells in Congenital Systemic and In Vitro Cytomegalovirus Infection Reveal Plastic and Robust Immune Pathway Biology Responses

Widad Dantoft*, Pablo Martínez-Vicente, James Jafali, Lara Pérez-Martínez, Kim Martin, Konstantinos Kotzamanis, Marie Craigon, Manfred Auer, Neil T. Young, Paul Walsh, Arnaud Marchant, Ana Angulo, Thorsten Forster, Peter Ghazal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Neonates and especially premature infants are highly susceptible to infection but still can have a remarkable resilience that is poorly understood. The view that neonates have an incomplete or deficient immune system is changing. Human neonatal studies are challenging, and elucidating host protective responses and underlying cognate pathway biology, in the context of viral infection in early life, remains to be fully explored. In both resource rich and poor settings, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the most common cause of congenital infection. By using unbiased systems analyses of transcriptomic resources for HCMV neonatal infection, we find the systemic response of a preterm congenital HCMV infection, involves a focused IFN regulatory response associated with dendritic cells. Further analysis of transcriptional-programming of neonatal dendritic cells in response to HCMV infection in culture revealed an early dominant IFN-chemokine regulatory subnetworks, and at later times the plasticity of pathways implicated in cell-cycle control and lipid metabolism. Further, we identify previously unknown suppressed networks associated with infection, including a select group of GPCRs. Functional siRNA viral growth screen targeting 516-GPCRs and subsequent validation identified novel GPCR-dependent antiviral (ADORA1) and proviral (GPR146, RGS16, PTAFR, SCTR, GPR84, GPR85, NMUR2, FZ10, RDS, CCL17, and SORT1) roles. By contrast a gene family cluster of protocadherins is significantly differentially induced in neonatal cells, suggestive of possible immunomodulatory roles. Unexpectedly, programming responses of adult and neonatal dendritic cells, upon HCMV infection, demonstrated comparable quantitative and qualitative responses showing that functionally, neonatal dendritic cell are not overly compromised. However, a delay in responses of neonatal cells for IFN subnetworks in comparison with adult-derived cells are notable, suggestive of subtle plasticity differences. These findings support a set-point control mechanism rather than immaturity for explaining not only neonatal susceptibility but also resilience to infection. In summary, our findings show that neonatal HCMV infection leads to a highly plastic and functional robust programming of dendritic cells in vivo and in vitro. In comparison with adults, a minimal number of subtle quantitative and temporal differences may contribute to variability in host susceptibility and resilience, in a context dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1146
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the ClouDx-i IAPP EU FP7 project (to PW and PG), Chief Scientists Office (ETM202), BBSRC (BB/K019112/1) and (BB/D019621/1) and the Wellcome Trust (WT066784/Z/02/Z) to PG. The Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh is a Centre for Integrative Systems Biology supported by the BBSRC and EPSRC. Reagent support to PG was also provided by the RNAi Global Initiative. PM-V was supported by a Formación de Personal Investigador fellowship from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN, Spain, SAF 2014-55683). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Homeostasis
  • Immunity
  • Infection
  • Set-point
  • Systems biology
  • Transcriptomics
  • Virus


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