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Nat Med. 2001 Jul;7(7):795-800.

CD4+ T-cell-epitope escape mutant virus selected in vivo.

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Institute for Experimental Immunology, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.


Mutations in viral genomes that affect T-cell-receptor recognition by CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes have been shown to allow viral evasion from immune surveillance during persistent viral infections. Although CD4+ T-helper cells are crucially involved in the maintenance of effective cytotoxic T-lymphocyte and neutralizing-antibody responses, their role in viral clearance and therefore in imposing similar selective pressures on the virus is unclear. We show here that transgenic virus-specific CD4+ Tcells, transferred into mice persistently infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, select for T-helper epitope mutant viruses that are not recognized. Together with the observed antigenic variation of the same T-helper epitope during polyclonal CD4+ T-cell responses in infected pore-forming protein-deficient C57BL/6 mice, this finding indicates that viral escape from CD4+ T lymphocytes is a possible mechanism of virus persistence.

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