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J Virol. 2009 Sep;83(18):9122-30. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00639-09. Epub 2009 Jul 8.

Negative immune regulator Tim-3 is overexpressed on T cells in hepatitis C virus infection and its blockade rescues dysfunctional CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and National Jewish Hospital, Denver, USA.


A number of emerging molecules and pathways have been implicated in mediating the T-cell exhaustion characteristic of chronic viral infection. Not all dysfunctional T cells express PD-1, nor are they all rescued by blockade of the PD-1/PD-1 ligand pathway. In this study, we characterize the expression of T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing protein 3 (Tim-3) in chronic hepatitis C infection. For the first time, we found that Tim-3 expression is increased on CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The proportion of dually PD-1/Tim-3-expressing cells is greatest in liver-resident T cells, significantly more so in HCV-specific than in cytomegalovirus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Tim-3 expression correlates with a dysfunctional and senescent phenotype (CD127(low) CD57(high)), a central rather than effector memory profile (CD45RA(negative) CCR7(high)), and reduced Th1/Tc1 cytokine production. We also demonstrate the ability to enhance T-cell proliferation and gamma interferon production in response to HCV-specific antigens by blocking the Tim-3-Tim-3 ligand interaction. These findings have implications for the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches to this common viral infection.

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