Compartmental differences in NK cell responsiveness to IL-12 during lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection

G C Pien, C A Biron
Journal of Immunology 2000 January 15, 164 (2): 994-1001
Some, but not all, viral infections induce endogenous IL-12 to drive NK cell IFN-gamma production and downstream antiviral defenses during innate immune responses. Even though lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) can be sensitive to IFN-gamma-mediated antiviral effects, infections with this agent do not elicit IL-12 or early IFN-gamma in immunocompetent hosts. Studies presented here demonstrate that LCMV infections of mice not only fail to induce IL-12, but also modify responsiveness to exogenous IL-12 for IFN-gamma production. IFN-gamma responses induced by IL-12 administration were greatly diminished in splenic populations, but significantly increased in serum and hepatic leukocytes, during the early course of LCMV infections. The IFN-gamma production was NK cell dependent, and the compartmental dichotomy between spleen and liver was also demonstrated in response to in vitro IL-12 stimulation. Although infections did increase proportions and numbers of liver NK cells, changes in responsiveness for IFN-gamma expression could not be explained by cell redistribution. Corroborating changes in proportions of NK cells induced to express intracellular IFN-gamma protein within the compartments were observed. The reduction in ability of splenic populations to produce IL-12-induced IFN-gamma after infection by LCMV was associated with decreased efficacy of administered IL-12 for promoting IFN-gamma-dependent antiviral effects in the spleen. Concomitantly, the maintenance of hepatic population IFN-gamma production was associated with preserved efficacy of administered IL-12 to elicit IFN-gamma-dependent antiviral effects in the liver. Taken together, these results demonstrate modifications of compartmental responses to IL-12 by viral infections and the consequences of these changes for efficacy of cytokine therapy.

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