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J Virol. 2002 Feb;76(3):1163-70.

Respiratory syncytial virus fusion protein mediates inhibition of mitogen-induced T-cell proliferation by contact.

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  • 1Max von Pettenkofer Institute and Gene Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, D-81377 Munich, Germany.


Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) and bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) are major pathogens in infants and calves, respectively. Experimental BRSV infection of calves and lambs is associated with lymphopenia and a reduction in responsiveness of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) to mitogens ex vivo. In this report, we show that in vitro mitogen-induced proliferation of PBLs is inhibited after contact with RSV-infected and UV-inactivated cells or with cells expressing RSV envelope proteins on the cell surface. The protein responsible was identified as the RSV fusion protein (F), as cells infected with a recombinant RSV expressing F as the single envelope protein or cells transfected with a plasmid encoding F were able to induce this effect. Thus, direct contact with RSV F is necessary and sufficient to inhibit proliferation of PBLs. Interestingly, F derived from HRSV was more efficient in inhibiting human PBL proliferation, while F from BRSV was more efficient in inhibiting bovine PBLs. Since various T-cell activation markers were upregulated after presenter cell contact, T lymphocytes are viable and may still be activated by mitogen. However, a significant fraction of PBLs were delayed or defective in G0/G1 to S-phase transit.

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