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J Virol. 1997 Jan;71(1):267-75.

Distinct organ-dependent mechanisms for the control of murine cytomegalovirus infection by natural killer cells.

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Department of Pathology, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester 01655, USA.


Antiviral mechanisms by which natural killer (NK) cells control murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection in the spleens and livers of C57BL/6 mice were measured, revealing different mechanisms of control in different organs. Three days postinfection, MCMV titers in the spleens of perforin 0/0 mice were higher than in those of perforin +/+ mice, but no elevation of liver titers was found in perforin 0/0 mice. NK cell depletion in MCMV-infected perforin 0/0 mice resulted only in an increase in liver viral titers and not in spleen titers. Depletion of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) in C57BL/6 mice by injections with monoclonal antibodies to IFN-gamma resulted in an increase of viral titers in the liver but not in the spleen. Analyses using IFN-gamma-receptor-deficient mice, rendered chimeric with C57BL/6 bone marrow cells, indicated that in a recipient environment where IFN-gamma cannot exert its effects, the depletion of NK cells caused an increase in MCMV titers in the spleens but had little effect in the liver. IFN-gamma has the ability to induce a variety of cells to produce nitric oxide, and administrating the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor N(omega)-monomethyl-L-arginine into MCMV-infected C57BL/6 mice resulted in MCMV titer increases in the liver but not in the spleen. Taken together, these data suggest that in C57BL/6 mice, there is a dichotomy in the mechanisms utilized by NK cells in the regulation of MCMV in different organs. In the spleen NK cells exert their effects in a perforin-dependent manner, suggesting a cytotoxic mechanism, while in the liver the production of IFN-gamma by NK cells may be a predominant mechanism in the regulation of MCMV synthesis. These results may explain why the Cmv-lr locus, which maps closely to genes regulating NK cell cytotoxic function, confers an NK cell-dependent resistance to MCMV infection in the spleen but not in the liver.

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