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J Clin Invest. 2002 Apr;109(7):905-14.

Critical role for a high-affinity chemokine-binding protein in gamma-herpesvirus-induced lethal meningitis.

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  • 1Departments of Pathology and Immunology and Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Chemokines are involved in recruitment and activation of hematopoietic cells in sites of infection and inflammation. The M3 gene of the gamma-herpesvirus gammaHV68 encodes an abundant secreted protein that binds CC chemokines with high affinity. We report here that this gene is essential for efficient induction of lethal meningitis by gammaHV68. An M3 mutant gammaHV68 (gammaHV68-M3.stop) was 100-fold less virulent than wild-type or marker rescue control (gammaHV68-M3.MR) viruses after intracerebral inoculation. After intracerebral inoculation, gammaHV68-M3.stop grew to lower titers than gammaHV68 or gammaHV68-M3.MR in the brain but spread to and grew normally in the spleen and lung. Expression of several CC chemokines was significantly induced in the CNS by gammaHV68 infection. Consistent with M3 acting by blockade of CC chemokine action, gammaHV68 induced a neutrophilic meningeal inflammatory infiltrate, while gammaHV68-M3.stop induced an infiltrate in which lymphocytes and macrophages predominated. In contrast to the important role of M3 in lethal meningitis, M3 was not required for establishment or reactivation from latent infection or induction of chronic arteritis. These data suggest a role for chemokines in the protection of the nervous system from viral infection and that the M3 protein acts in a tissue-specific fashion during acute but not chronic gammaHV68 infection to limit CC chemokine-induced inflammatory responses.

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