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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2017 Nov;57(5):536-546. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2016-0377OC.

Human CD8+ T Cells Damage Noninfected Epithelial Cells during Influenza Virus Infection In Vitro.

Author information

1 Department of Viroscience, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
2 Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Section of Electron Microscopy, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands.
3 Institute of Pathology, University Medical Centre, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.
4 Rocky Mountain Veterinary Branch, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana.
5 University of Giessen and Marburg Lung Centre, Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Member of the German Centre for Lung Research, Giessen, Germany.
6 School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; and.
7 Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


During severe influenza A virus (IAV) infections, a large amount of damage to the pulmonary epithelium is the result of the antiviral immune response. Specifically, whilst CD8+ T cells are important for killing IAV-infected cells, during a severe IAV infection, they can damage uninfected epithelial cells. At present, the mechanisms by which this occurs are unclear. Here, we used a novel in vitro coculture model of human NCl-H441 cells and CD8+ T cells to provide a new insight into how CD8+ T cells may affect uninfected epithelial cells during severe IAV infections. Using this model, we show that human IAV-specific CD8+ T cells produce soluble factors that reduce the barrier integrity of noninfected epithelial cells (referred to as "bystander damage"). We show that this bystander damage is the result of a combination of TNF-α and IFN-γ. This bystander damage occurred in the absence of widespread epithelial cell death and was instead associated with decreased expression of epithelial cell ion channels and pumps. Together, these data suggest that ameliorating the function of epithelial cell ion channels and pumps may help reduce immunopathology during severe IAV infections.


CD8+ T cells; bystander damage; epithelial cells; influenza virus

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