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J Immunol. 2009 Apr 15;182(8):4865-73. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0801974.

A protective role for dengue virus-specific CD8+ T cells.

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  • 1Division of Vaccine Discovery, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Infection with one of the four serotypes of dengue virus (DENV1-4) can result in a range of clinical manifestations in humans, from dengue fever to the more serious dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome. Although T cells have been implicated in the immunopathogenesis of secondary infections with heterologous DENV serotypes, the role of T cells in protection against DENV is unknown. In this study, we used a mouse-passaged DENV2 strain, S221, to investigate the role of CD8(+) T cells in the immune response to primary DENV infection. S221 did not replicate well in wild-type mice, but did induce a CD8(+) T cell response, whereas viral replication and a robust CD8(+) T cell response were observed after infection of IFN-alpha/betaR(-/-) mice. Depletion of CD8(+) T cells from IFN-alpha/betaR(-/-) mice before infection resulted in significantly higher viral loads compared with undepleted mice. Mapping the specificity of the CD8(+) T cell response led to the identification of 12 epitopes derived from 6 of the 10 DENV proteins, with a similar immunodominance hierarchy observed in wild-type and IFN-alpha/betaR(-/-) mice. DENV-specific CD8(+) T cells produced IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, expressed cell surface CD107a, and exhibited cytotoxic activity in vivo. Finally, immunization with four of the immunodominant CD8(+) T cell epitopes enhanced viral clearance. Collectively, our results reveal an important role for CD8(+) T cells in the host defense against DENV and demonstrate that the anti-DENV CD8(+) T cell response can be enhanced by immunization, providing rationale for designing DENV-specific vaccines that induce cell-mediated immunity.

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