Recovery from mouse hepatitis virus infection depends on recruitment of CD8(+) cells rather than activation of intrahepatic CD4(+)alphabeta(-)TCR(inter) or NK-T cells.
Lamontagne L., Lusignan S., Page C.
Mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) provides an excellent animal model for the study of the immunopathological mechanisms involved in hepatic viral diseases. We previously generated an attenuated viral variant, YAC-MHV3, which induces a subclinical disease and recovery within 15 days. In contrast, the L2-MHV3 strain induces the development of a fulminant hepatitis, leading to death within 3 days. In this paper, we document intrahepatic and splenic T cell subpopulations involved in the hepatitis process and viral elimination identified in attenuated or pathogenic MHV3-infected C57BL/6 mice. Percentages of intrahepatic CD4(+) cells decreased in attenuated YAC-MHV3-infected mice, while they increased in mice infected with pathogenic L2-MHV3, compared with uninfected animals. Moreover, in YAC-MHV3-infected mice, the percentages of intrahepatic CD8(+) cells slightly decreased at 24 h pi, then increased until 15 days pi. In contrast, the CD4/CD8 ratios of splenic lymphoid subpopulations increased in the first days of infection and returned to normal values at 15 days pi. Intrahepatic NK1.1(+)alphabeta - TCR(inter) cells decreased in both virally infected groups of mice, while CD4(+)alphabeta - TCR(inter) LFA-1(high) cells increased in L2-MHV3-infected mice, in contrast with what was seen in YAC-MHV3-infected mice. However, these cells became anergic following Con A or PHA stimulation. Ex vivo studies showed that only the intrahepatic CD8(+) cells that were increased in YAC-MHV3-infected mice could be stimulated by lectins. In addition, in vitro viral infections revealed that L2-MHV3 viral infection led to an increase of intrahepatic CD4(+)alphabeta - TCR(inter) cells in the absence of CD8(+) cells only. These results indicate that the attenuated phenotype of the YAC-MHV3 virus is related to two different mechanisms: the first involves no increase of intrahepatic CD4(+)alphabeta - TCR(inter) or NK-T cells, while the second favors the recruitment and activation of CD8(+) cells in liver. The results are discussed in relation to the integrity of intrahepatic immune tolerance mechanisms and immune-mediated viral elimination.