Type I interferon signaling enhances CD8+ T cell effector function and differentiation during murine gammaherpesvirus 68 infection

Ryan N Jennings, Jason M Grayson, Erik S Barton
Journal of Virology 2014, 88 (24): 14040-9

UNLABELLED: CD8(+) T cell responses are critical to the control of replication and reactivation associated with gammaherpesvirus infection. Type I interferons (IFNs) have been shown to have direct and indirect roles in supporting CD8(+) T cell development and function during viral infection; however, the role of type I interferons during latent viral infection has not been examined. Mice deficient in type I IFN signaling (IFNAR1(-/-) mice) have high levels of reactivation during infection with murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68), a murine gammaherpesvirus model for Epstein-Barr virus. We hypothesized that type I IFNs function to enhance the anti-gammaherpesvirus CD8(+) T cell response. To test this, IFNAR1(-/-) mice were infected with MHV68 and the CD8(+) T cell response was analyzed. In the absence of type I IFN signaling, there was a marked increase in short-lived effector CD8(+) T cells, and MHV68-specific CD8(+) T cells had upregulated expression of PD-1 and reduced tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), gamma IFN (IFN-γ), and interleukin-2 (IL-2) production. Suppressing MHV68 replication early in infection using the antiviral cidofovir rescued CD8(+) T cell cytokine production and reduced PD-1 expression. However, suppressing high levels of reactivation in IFNAR1(-/-) mice failed to improve CD8(+) T cell cytokine production during latency. T cell-specific abrogation of type I IFN signaling showed that the effects of type I IFNs on the CD8(+) T cell response during MHV68 infection are independent of direct type I IFN signaling on T cells. Our findings support a model in which type I IFNs likely suppress MHV68 replication, thus limiting viral antigen and facilitating an effective gammaherpesvirus-directed CD8(+) T cell response.

IMPORTANCE: The murine gammaherpesvirus MHV68 has both genetic and biologic homology to the human gammaherpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which infects over 90% of humans. Latent EBV infection and reactivation are associated with various life-threatening diseases and malignancies. Host suppression of gammaherpesvirus latency and reactivation requires both CD8(+) T cells as well as type I interferon signaling. Type I IFNs have been shown to critically support the antiviral CD8(+) T cell response in other virus models. Here, we identify an indirect role for type I IFN signaling in enhancing gammaherpesvirus-specific CD8(+) T cell cytokine production. Further, this function of type I IFN signaling can be partially rescued by suppressing viral replication during early MHV68 infection. Our data suggest that type I IFN signaling on non-T cells can enhance CD8(+) T cell function during gammaherpesvirus infection, potentially through suppression of MHV68 replication.

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