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J Immunol. 1992 Jul 15;149(2):581-9.

The effect of the Cmv-1 resistance gene, which is linked to the natural killer cell gene complex, is mediated by natural killer cells.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Western Australia, Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, Nedlands.


The resistance of mice to lethal infection by murine CMV (MCMV) is under complex host genetic control with contributions from both H-2 and non-H-2 genes. We have previously shown that an autosomal, non-MHC encoded gene, Cmv-1, controls MCMV replication in the spleen. We have investigated the mechanism by which the Cmv-1 resistance gene confers protection against MCMV infection. Using H-2 compatible irradiation bone marrow chimeras, the enhanced resistance to MCMV infection that is associated with the Cmv-1l allele in the C57BL background was shown to be mediated by an irradiation-sensitive bone marrow-derived cell population, or a factor produced by these cells. The lack of correlation between serum IFN titers and the strain distribution pattern of Cmv-1 in CXB recombinant inbred mouse strains suggests that IFN does not mediate resistance conferred by this gene. Similarly, the lack of effect of in vivo depletion of mature CD4+ and CD8+ T cells on virus replication in C57BL/6J mice indicates that T cells are unlikely to be involved. In contrast, in vivo depletion of NK cells by injection of the anti-NK1.1 mAb PK136 abrogated restricted splenic virus replication in C57BL/6J----BALB.B chimeric mice and in the Cmv-1l CXB strains. These data indicate that the effect of the Cmv-1 gene is mediated by NK cells. The significant augmentation in NK cell activity after MCMV infection of the susceptible Cmv-1h strains (BALB/cBy), CXBG/By, CXBH/By, CXBI/By, and CXBK/By) indicates the existence in these mice of NK cells that are functionally and phenotypically distinct from those in Cmv-1l strains. NK cells present in the Cmv-1h strains are unable to restrict efficiently splenic MCMV replication in vivo, possibly due to a lack of specificity for virus-infected target cells. Finally, flow cytometric analysis of NK1-1 expression in CXB and BXD RI mice together with MCMV replication studies in the BXD RI strains indicate that Cmv-1 is closely linked to NK1.1 and other loci that reside on a distal segment of murine chromosome 6 in a region that has recently been defined as the natural killer complex.

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