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J Med Virol. 2001 Feb;63(2):178-88.

Respiratory syncytial virus infection does not increase allergen-induced type 2 cytokine production, yet increases airway hyperresponsiveness in mice.

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Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232-2582, USA.


Severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-induced disease is associated with childhood asthma and atopy. We combined murine models of allergen-sensitization and RSV infection to explore the interaction of allergic and virus-induced airway inflammation and its impact on airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). We found that RSV infection during ova-sensitization (OVA/RSV) increased and prolonged AHR compared to mice only RSV-infected (RSV) or ova-sensitized (OVA). AHR is known to be associated with an increase in Type 2 cytokines (IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13) in allergen-sensitized mice. Therefore, we hypothesized that RSV-induced enhancement of AHR was a result of potentiating the Type 2 cytokine profile promoted by ova-sensitization. Surprisingly, we found that Type 2 cytokines induced by ova-sensitization were not increased by RSV infection despite the increase in AHR, and in some cases were diminished. RNAse protection assay revealed no difference in IL-4 and IL-5 mRNA levels between the OVA and OVA/RSV groups, and IL-13 mRNA was significantly decreased in the OVA/RSV mice compared to the OVA group. Flow cytometric analysis of Type 2 cytokines demonstrated the same frequency of IL-4 and IL-5 production in lung-derived T lymphocytes from the OVA/RSV and OVA groups. Direct cytokine ELISA measurements of lung supernatant showed the level of IL-13 was significantly decreased in the OVA/RSV group compared to OVA mice, while there was no difference in either IL-4 or IL-5 between these two groups. These data indicate that the enhanced and prolonged AHR caused by the interaction of allergic airway inflammation and virus-induced immune responses is a complex process that can not be explained simply by augmented production of Type 2 cytokines.

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