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MBio. 2017 Sep 26;8(5). pii: e00845-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00845-17.

Ebola Virus Binding to Tim-1 on T Lymphocytes Induces a Cytokine Storm.

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Department of Pathology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA.
Galveston National Laboratory, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA.
The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA.
Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Immunology Laboratory, Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Washington National Primate Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Pathology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA.


Ebola virus (EBOV) disease (EVD) results from an exacerbated immunological response that is highlighted by a burst in the production of inflammatory mediators known as a "cytokine storm." Previous reports have suggested that nonspecific activation of T lymphocytes may play a central role in this phenomenon. T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing protein 1 (Tim-1) has recently been shown to interact with virion-associated phosphatidylserine to promote infection. Here, we demonstrate the central role of Tim-1 in EBOV pathogenesis, as Tim-1-/- mice exhibited increased survival rates and reduced disease severity; surprisingly, only a limited decrease in viremia was detected. Tim-1-/- mice exhibited a modified inflammatory response as evidenced by changes in serum cytokines and activation of T helper subsets. A series of in vitro assays based on the Tim-1 expression profile on T cells demonstrated that despite the apparent absence of detectable viral replication in T lymphocytes, EBOV directly binds to isolated T lymphocytes in a phosphatidylserine-Tim-1-dependent manner. Exposure to EBOV resulted in the rapid development of a CD4Hi CD3Low population, non-antigen-specific activation, and cytokine production. Transcriptome and Western blot analysis of EBOV-stimulated CD4+ T cells confirmed the induction of the Tim-1 signaling pathway. Furthermore, comparative analysis of transcriptome data and cytokine/chemokine analysis of supernatants highlight the similarities associated with EBOV-stimulated T cells and the onset of a cytokine storm. Flow cytometry revealed virtually exclusive binding and activation of central memory CD4+ T cells. These findings provide evidence for the role of Tim-1 in the induction of a cytokine storm phenomenon and the pathogenesis of EVD.IMPORTANCE Ebola virus infection is characterized by a massive release of inflammatory mediators, which has come to be known as a cytokine storm. The severity of the cytokine storm is consistently linked with fatal disease outcome. Previous findings have demonstrated that specific T-cell subsets are key contributors to the onset of a cytokine storm. In this study, we investigated the role of Tim-1, a T-cell-receptor-independent trigger of T-cell activation. We first demonstrated that Tim-1-knockout (KO) mice survive lethal Ebola virus challenge. We then used a series of in vitro assays to demonstrate that Ebola virus directly binds primary T cells in a Tim-1-phosphatidylserine-dependent manner. We noted that binding induces a cytokine storm-like phenomenon and that blocking Tim-1-phosphatidylserine interactions reduces viral binding, T-cell activation, and cytokine production. These findings highlight a previously unknown role of Tim-1 in the development of a cytokine storm and "immune paralysis."


Ebola virus; T lymphocytes; cytokine storm; cytokines; transcriptome; viral pathogenesis

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