Immunology and Microbiology
First Thesis Advisor
Raymond M. Welsh, Ph.D.
CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Apoptosis, Immunologic Memory, Virus Diseases, Antigens, Viral, Glycoproteins, Interferons, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis, Peptide Fragments
Profound lymphopenia has been observed during many acute viral infections, and our laboratory has previously documented a type 1 IFN-dependent loss of most memory (CD44hi) and some naïve (CD44lo) CD8 T cells immediately preceding the development of the antiviral T cell response at days 2-4 following lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection. In this thesis, I will examine additional mechanisms involved in the early attrition of CD8 T cells and evaluate whether antigen-specific and non-specific CD8 T cells are equally susceptible. Lastly, I will examine whether the early attrition of CD8 T cells contributes to the generation of an effective immune response.
Poly(I:C), a potent inducer of type 1 IFN, was previously shown to cause the attrition and apoptosis of CD8α+CD44hi cells in normal mice, but not in type 1 IFN receptor–deficient mice (IFN1-R KO). I questioned whether additional molecule(s) might contribute to the type 1 IFN-induced apoptosis of CD8α+CD44hi cells. I used a PCR array to determine the expression of 84 apoptosis-related genes at 6 hours post-poly(I:C) treatment, relative to an untreated control. There was an 11-fold increase in CD40 RNA expression in CD8α+CD44hi cells isolated from poly(I:C)-treated mice. CD40 protein expression was also increased on CD8α+CD44hi cells, peaking between 9 and 12 hours following poly(I:C) treatment, before declining thereafter. This increase in CD40 protein expression directly correlated with an increase in Annexin V reactivity, an indicator of early apoptosis. Nevertheless, CD40 was not required for the loss of CD8α+CD44hi cells, as both wildtype and CD40-deficient mice were equally susceptible to the poly(I:C)-induced attrition. Upon further characterization, I found this population of CD40+CD8α+CD44hi cells to be CD11c+B220-Thy1.2- MHCIIhi, which is consistent with a “lymphoid” CD8α+ DC phenotype. Kinetic analysis revealed a type 1 IFN-dependent increase in this CD8α+ DC population at 12 hours post-poly(I:C) treatment. This increase was only observed in the spleen, as no increase in percentage was observed in the peritoneal cavity (PEC), lungs, inguinal lymph nodes (iLN), or peripheral blood. Collectively, these results suggest that the type 1 IFN-dependent increase in splenic CD8α+DCs accounts for the observed increase in Annexin V reactive cells following poly(I:C) treatment.
These findings required a re-evaluation of the type 1 IFN-induced attrition of CD8+CD44hi T cells with an anti-CD8β antibody, which is a more exclusive marker for T cells than the anti-CD8α antibody. Kinetic analysis revealed a significant decrease in splenic CD8β+CD44hi T cells at 12 hours post-poly(I:C) treatment. This reduction in splenic CD8β+CD44hi T cells was not due to trafficking to other organs, as the PECs, lungs, iLN, lungs, and peripheral blood all exhibited significant, although varying, decreases in the percentage of CD8β+CD44hi T cells at 12 hour following poly(I:C) treatment. These data support the notion that the type 1 IFN-induced attrition of CD8β+CD44hiT cells was a “global” phenomenon and could not be completely due to migration out of the spleen.
The attrition of CD8β+CD44hi T cells was also dependent upon type 1 IFN at 3 days post-LCMV infection, as there was no significant reduction of this population in IFN1-R KO mice. The loss of wildtype CD8β+CD44hi T cells correlated with an increased activation of caspases 3 and 8, which are enzymes that play essential roles in apoptosis and inflammation. A significant loss of CD4+CD44hi T cells, which also correlated with an increased activation of caspases 3 and 8, was observed at 3 days post-LCMV infection. Collectively, these results suggest that attrition of both CD4+CD44hi and CD8β+CD44hiT cell populations is type 1 IFN-dependent and associated with the activation of caspases following LCMV infection.
At 3 days post-LCMV infection, both wildtype CD8β+CD44hi and CD4+CD44hi T cell populations had a higher frequency of cells with fragmented DNA, a hallmark characteristic of the late stages of apoptosis, as revealed by terminal transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), relative to uninfected controls. This suggests that the loss of both populations was due to apoptosis. Therefore, I questioned whether the LCMV-induced apoptosis of both CD4+CD44hi and CD8β+CD44hi T cell populations occurred through a mitochondrial-induced pathway involving the pro-apoptotic molecule Bim. The attrition of both CD4+CD44hi and CD8β+CD44hi T cells was significantly higher in wildtype mice compared to Bim KO mice at 3 days post-LCMV infection. Moreover, both wildtype CD8β+CD44hi and CD4+CD44hi T cell populations had higher frequency of TUNEL+ cells, relative to Bim KO populations. These results suggest that the apoptosis of CD8β+CD44hi and CD4+CD44hiT cells, following LCMV infection, might occur through a mitochondrial-induced pathway involving Bim.
Studies have shown “lymphoid” CD8α+ DCs to be involved in the phagocytosis of apoptotic lymphocytes. Therefore, I evaluated whether host CD8α+ DCs are capable of phagocytosing apoptotic lymphocytes by adoptively transferring CFSE-labeled wildtype donor splenocytes (Ly5.1) into congenic wildtype hosts (Ly5.2), followed by inoculation with poly(I:C). There was an increased frequency of donor cells (Ly5.1, CFSE+) within the host CD8α+CD11c+ gate at 9 and 12 hours post-poly(I:C) treatment. The results suggest that type 1 IFN-activated CD8α+DCs might aid in the rapid clearance of apoptotic cells during the type 1 IFN-induced attrition associated with viral infections.
I next questioned whether TCR engagement by antigen would render CD8 T cells resistant to attrition. I tested whether a high concentration of antigen (GP33 peptide) would protect LCMV-specific naïve TCR transgenic P14 cells specific for the GP33 epitope of LCMV and GP33-specific LCMV-immune cells from depletion. Both naïve P14 and memory GP33-specific donor CD8 T cells decreased substantially 16 hours after inoculation poly(I:C), regardless of whether a high concentration of GP33 peptide was administered to host mice beforehand. The increased activation status of naïve antigen-specific cells via peptide inoculation did not confer resistance to type 1 IFN-induced depletion. Donor naïve P14 and LCMV-specific memory cells were also depleted from day 2 LCMV-infected (Clone 13) hosts by 16 hours post-transfer. These results indicate that antigen engagement does not protect CD8 T cells from the type 1 IFN-induced attrition associated with viral infections.
Computer models indicated that early depletion of memory T cells may allow for the generation for a more diverse T cell response to infection by reducing the immunodomination caused by cross-reactive T cells. To test this in a biological system, I questioned whether the reduced apoptosis of the crossreactive memory CD8 population (NP205), in aged LCMV-immune mice (18-22 months), following heterologous virus challenge (PV), would allow it to dominate the immune response. At day 8 post-PV infection, the cross-reactive memory CD8 T cell response (NP205) was more immunodominating in aged LCMV-immune mice relative to younger LCMV-immune mice. This was indicated by the increased ratio of the cross-reactive NP205 response to the newly arising noncross-reactive, PV-specific NP38 response in older LCMV-mice relative to younger LCMV immune-mice, at day 8 post-PV infection. These data suggest that the early attrition of T cells allows for the generation of a more diverse T cell response to infection by reducing the immunodomination caused by crossreactive T cells. Collectively, these findings offer further insight into the early attrition of T cells associated with viral infections.
Bahl K. (2008). Attrition of CD8 T Cells during the Early Stages of Viral Infections: a Dissertation. GSBS Dissertations and Theses. https://doi.org/10.13028/dz8b-gh76. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/gsbs_diss/351
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