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J Clin Invest. 2007 Oct;117(10):3029-41.

Immune suppression or enhancement by CD137 T cell costimulation during acute viral infection is time dependent.

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Emory Vaccine Center, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


CD137 is expressed on activated T cells and ligands to this costimulatory molecule have clinical potential for amplifying CD8 T cell immunity to tumors and viruses, while suppressing CD4 autoimmune T cell responses. To understand the basis for this dichotomy in T cell function, CD4 and CD8 antiviral immunity was measured in lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) Armstrong- or A/PR8/34 influenza-infected mice injected with anti-CD137 mAbs. We found that the timing of administration of anti-CD137 mAbs profoundly altered the nature of the antiviral immune response during acute infection. Antiviral immunity progressed normally for the first 72 hours when the mAb was administered early in infection before undergoing complete collapse by day 8 postinfection. Anti-CD137-injected LCMV-infected mice became tolerant to, and persistently infected with, LCMV Armstrong. Elevated levels of IL-10 early in the response was key to the loss of CD4(+) T cells, whereas CD8(+) T cell deletion was dependent on a prolonged TNF-alpha response, IL-10, and upregulation of Fas. Blocking IL-10 function rescued CD4 antiviral immunity but not CD8(+) T cell deletion. Anti-CD137 treatment given beyond 72 hours after infection significantly enhanced antiviral immunity. Mice treated with anti-CD137 mAb 1 day before infection with A/PR8/34 virus experienced 80% mortality compared with 40% mortality of controls. When treatment was delayed until day 1 postinfection, 100% of the infected mice survived. These data show that anti-CD137 mAbs can induce T cell activation-induced cell death or enhance antiviral immunity depending on the timing of treatment, which may be important for vaccine development.

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