Pathogenesis of the cytomegalovirus infection in the adrenal gland



Project title: Pathogenesis of the cytomegalovirus infection in the adrenal gland

Grantor: Croatian Science Foundation

Grantor’s website:

Coordinator: Assoc. prof. dr. Berislav Lisnic

Research team:

Prof. dr. Tihana Lenac Rovis
Dr. Jelena Zeleznjak
Gian Pietro Pietri, mag. pharm. ing.

Total funding: EUR 200.864,71

Brief description:

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a widespread virus that establishes latency and persistence after primary infection in most humans worldwide. In individuals with a healthy immune system, it causes little or no symptoms at all, although it is considered a risk factor for the development of autoimmune, (cardio)vascular and malignant diseases. In contrast, in persons with a suppressed, compromised, or immature immune system, it may cause numerous life-threatening conditions affecting multiple organ systems and tissues.

Most of our knowledge about CMV pathogenesis comes from investigations of the following organs in the body: spleen, liver, brain, salivary glands, and lungs, even though the development of more successful treatments relies on our in-depth understanding of how the virus disseminates throughout the body and what consequences it may cause in each tissue and organ. Among massively infected, but apparently disregarded organs during the CMV infection are the adrenal glands (AGs) - part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a major neuroendocrine system that, among other functions, regulates our immune responses and reactions to stress. Despite the essential physiological role of the AGs, the short and long-term functional consequences of the CMV infection of the AG, the resistance of AG to virus reactivation/reinfection, and immune mechanisms responsible for the control of the virus in AG are mostly unknown. The main goal of this project is to address the above-mentioned gap in our knowledge and provide the first systematic and in-depth analysis of the pathogenesis of the CMV infection in the AG and identify critical immune system components responsible for the defense of the AG against cytomegalovirus. These in-depth analyses have the potential to result in applications, therapies, treatments, and/or diagnostic procedures transferable into clinical practice.