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PLoS One. 2013 May 27;8(5):e63381. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063381. Print 2013.

VIPhyb, an antagonist of vasoactive intestinal peptide receptor, enhances cellular antiviral immunity in murine cytomegalovirus infected mice.

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  • 1Department of Hematology/Oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.


Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is a neuropeptide hormone that suppresses Th1-mediated cellular immunity. We previously reported that VIP-knockout (VIP-KO) mice have enhanced cellular immune responses and increased survival following murine cytomegalovirus (mCMV) infection in C57BL/6 mice. In this study, we tested whether treatment with a VIP receptor antagonistic peptide protects C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice from mCMV-infection. One week of daily subcutaneous injections of VIPhyb was non-toxic and did not alter frequencies of immune cell subsets in non-infected mice. VIPhyb administration to mCMV-infected C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice markedly enhanced survival, viral clearance, and reduced liver and lung pathology compared with saline-treated controls. The numbers of effector/memory CD8+ T-cells and mature NK cells were increased in VIPhyb-treated mice compared with PBS-treated groups. Pharmacological blockade of VIP-receptor binding or genetic blockade of VIP-signaling prevented the up-regulation of PD-L1 and PD-1 expression on DC and activated CD8+ T-cells, respectively, in mCMV-infected mice, and enhanced CD80, CD86, and MHC-II expression on conventional and plasmacytoid DC. VIPhyb-treatment increased type-I IFN synthesis, numbers of IFN-γ- and TNF-α-expressing NK cells and T-cells, and the numbers of mCMV-M45 epitope-peptide-MHC-I tetramer CD8+ T-cells following mCMV infection. VIP-treatment lowered the percentage of Treg cells in spleens compared with PBS-treated WT mice following mCMV infection, while significantly decreasing levels of serum VEGF induced by mCMV-infection. The mice in all treated groups exhibited similar levels of anti-mCMV antibody titers. Short-term administration of a VIP-receptor antagonist represents a novel approach to enhance innate and adaptive cellular immunity in a murine model of CMV infection.

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