Critical role for alpha/beta and gamma interferons in persistence of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus by clonal exhaustion of cytotoxic T cells

R. Ou, S. Zhou, L. Huang, D. Moskophidis

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154 Scopus citations


Under conditions of high antigenic load during infection with invasive lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) strains, virus can persist by selective clonal exhaustion of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. In this work we studied the down-regulation of the virus-specific CD8+-T-cell response during a persistent infection of adult mice, with particular emphasis on the contribution of the interferon response in promoting host defense. Studies were conducted by infecting mice deficient in receptors for type I (alpha/beta interferon [IFN-α/β]), type II (IFN-γ), and both type I and II IFNs with LCMV isolates that vary in their capacity to induce T-cell exhaustion. The main conclusions of this study are as follows. (i) IFNs play a critical role in LCMV infection by reducing viral loads in the initial stages of infection and thus modifying both the extent of CD8+-T-cell exhaustion and the course of infection. The importance of IFNs in this context varies with the biological properties of the LCMV strain. (ii) An inverse correlation exists between antigen persistence and responsiveness of virus-specific CD8+ T cells. This results in distinct programs of activation or tolerance (functional unresponsiveness and/or physical elimination of antigen-specific cells) during acute and chronic virus infections, respectively. (iii) A successful immune response associated with definitive viral clearance requires an appropriate balance between cellular and humoral components of the immune system. We discuss the role of IFNs in influencing virus-specific T cells that determine the outcome of persistent infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8407-8423
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Aug 31 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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