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J Immunol. 2004 Feb 1;172(3):1491-500.

Effect of chronic viral infection on epitope selection, cytokine production, and surface phenotype of CD8 T cells and the role of IFN-gamma receptor in immune regulation.

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  • 1Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706.


Regulation of CD8 T cell responses in chronic viral infections is not well understood. In this study, we have compared the CD8 T cell responses to immunodominant and subdominant epitopes during an acute and a chronic lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection in mice. The epitope hierarchy of the primary CD8 T cell response was similar in acute and chronic LCMV infections. However, strikingly, the epitope hierarchy of the primary CD8 T cell response was conserved in the T cell memory only in an acute but not in a chronic LCMV infection. Interestingly, in an acute infection, increasing the viral dose caused significant changes in the epitope hierarchy of the LCMV-specific memory CD8 T cell pool, with no effect on the primary CD8 T cell response. Functional and phenotypic analyses revealed that exposure of CD8 T cells to extended periods of antigenic stimulation could lead to long-term defects in cytokine production and alteration in expression of cell surface L-selectin (CD62L). Whereas expression of CD44 was minimally altered, a greater proportion of LCMV-specific memory CD8 T cells were CD62L(low) in mice that have recovered from a chronic LCMV infection, compared with acutely infected mice. Mechanistic studies showed that IFN-gammaR deficiency altered the epitope hierarchy of the pool of LCMV-specific memory CD8 T cells without significantly affecting the immunodominance of the primary CD8 T cell response in an acute infection. Taken together, these findings should further our understanding about the regulation of T cell responses in human chronic viral infections.

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