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J Immunol. 2004 Jun 1;172(11):6944-53.

Murine cytomegalovirus interference with antigen presentation has little effect on the size or the effector memory phenotype of the CD8 T cell response.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.


As with most herpesviruses, CMVs encode viral genes that inhibit Ag presentation to CD8 T cells (VIPRs). VIPR function has been assumed to be essential for CMV to establish its characteristic lifetime infection of its host. We compared infection of C57BL/6 mice with wild-type murine CMV (MCMV) and a virus lacking each of MCMV's three known VIPRs: m4, m6, and m152. During acute infection, there was very little difference between the two viruses with respect to the kinetics of viral replication and clearance, or in the size and kinetics of the virus-specific CD8 T cell response. During chronic infection, a large, effector memory, virus-specific CD8 T cell population (CD8(low)CD62L(-)CD11c(+)NKG2A(+)) was maintained in both infections; the size and phenotype of the CD8 T cell response to both viruses was remarkably similar. The characteristic effector memory phenotype of the CD8 T cells suggested that both wild-type and Deltam4+m6+m152 virus continued to present Ag to CD8 T cells during the chronic phase of infection. During the chronic phase of infection, MCMV cannot be isolated from immunocompetent mice. However, upon immunosuppression, both Deltam4+m6+m152 and wild-type virus could be reactivated from mice infected for 6 wk. Thus, restoring the ability of CD8 T cells to detect MCMV had little apparent effect on the course of MCMV infection and on the CD8 T cell response to it. These results challenge the notion that VIPR function is necessary for CMV persistence in the host.

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