Human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) has yet to be definitively linked to a specific disease. This is due in part to the ubiquitous nature of the virus. Humanized Rag2-/-γc-/- (Rag-hu) mice were tested to determine if these were a suitable animal model to study the virus. Both cell-free and cell-associated virus was used for infection and both were found to be efficient at infecting the mice. Viral DNA was found in the plasma and cellular blood fractions, bone marrow, lymph node, and thymus, indicating successful infection and propagation of the virus in vivo. The CD3+CD4- population was depleted, while the CD3-CD4+ was increased in infected animals. The CD3-CD4+CD8- and CD3+CD4+CD8- populations were depleted and the CD3+CD4+CD8+ population increased when analysis was gated upon CD4+ cells. The CD3-CD4+CD8+ population expanded and the CD3-CD4+CD8- population was reduced when analysis was gated on the CD3- population. Additional flow cytometry analysis revealed increases in CD4+CD8+ double positive cells in the peripheral blood of cell-free infected mice, which could indicate improper T cell selection and a premature departure of these cells from the thymus, possibly contributing to autoimmunity. Previous research has shown that HIV and HHV-6A may have a synergistic effect on one another and that HHV-6A may act as a cofactor in the progression to AIDS. After determining the Rag-hu mouse model was suitable for studying HHV-6A infection, a coinfection of HHV-6A and HIV-1 was performed. Coinfected mice had fewer thymocytes when compared with the HIV-1 only, mock-infected, and to a lesser extent HHV-6A only groups which could indicate increased cell death in the coinfected group as well as possible disruptions in migration of cells, either causing cells to be sequestered in the bone marrow and unable to migrate to the thymus, or causing premature egress of the cells in the thymus due in part to premature upregulation of CCR7, both of which would explain the smaller cellular populations found in the coinfected mouse thymi. Additional studies were performed to determine if a preferential targeting existed between HHV-6A and HIV-1 as these viruses are found simultaneously coinfecting the same cell. Preferential targeting was not observed by cell-associated migration assay, but increased migration of HHV-6A-infected cells was observed in a CCL21 dependent manner. These studies have provided useful information about HHV-6A and its relevance to HIV/AIDS as well as a possible mechanism of the involvement of HHV-6A in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Microbiology and Molecular Biology



Date Submitted


Document Type





HHV-6A, Human herpesvirus 6, Humanized Rag2-/-γc-/- (Rag-hu) mice, HIV, animal model, AIDS, autoimmunity



Included in

Microbiology Commons