To study the mode of action of human cytomegalovirus, an important teratogenic agent in human populations, the susceptibility of a pluripotent human embryonal carcinoma cell line to the virus was investigated. Viral antigens were not expressed nor was infectious virus produced by human embryonal carcinoma cells after infection, although the virus was able to penetrate these cells. In contrast, retinoic acid-induced differentiated derivatives of embryonal carcinoma cells were permissive for antigen expression and infectious virus production. Replication of human cytomegalovirus in human teratocarcinoma cells may therefore depend on cellular functions associated with differentiation.
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