Window of vulnerability of vaccinia virus-infected cells to natural killer (NK) cell-mediated cytolysis correlates with enhanced NK cell triggering and is concomitant with a decrease in H-2 class I antigen expression

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Pathology; Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

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Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


A time course study was performed in order to determine if vaccinia virus (VV)-infected targets were more susceptible to murine natural killer (NK) cell-mediated lysis during a discrete period of time postinfection. Activated NK cells were used in short-term (e.g. 4 h) assays in order to avoid a further in vitro activation of the NK cells by interferon (IFN) and to test the innate susceptibility of target cells to lysis. The sensitivity of VV-infected L929 cells to lysis by NK cells increased as the infection progressed, reached a peak at approximately 24 h postinfection, and subsequently declined to levels lower than that of uninfected cells. This window of vulnerability was not due to an increase in the number of effector/target cell conjugates, which continually decreased as the VV infection progressed. Triggering of NK cells was measured by the influx of 45Ca2+. Target cells treated with IFN induced less 45Ca2+ uptake, whereas cycloheximide treatment of targets caused a greater influx of 45Ca2+ into the effector cells. When L929 cells were infected with VV for various time intervals and used in the triggering assays, an enhanced triggering of the effectors corresponding to the time of enhanced susceptibility of the target cells to lysis was detected. Quantitative decreases in H-2Kk and Dk class I antigens were observed following VV infection of target cells as measured by FACS analysis using alloantibodies. Qualitative changes in H-2 class I antigens were also observed, as detected by a loss in VV-infected target cell susceptibility to lysis by allospecific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) at a time when they were highly sensitive to killing by NK cells and VV-specific CTL. These results show that virus-infected targets may become innately more sensitive to lysis by NK cells at discrete time points after infection and that the susceptibility to lysis correlates with enhanced triggering of NK cells and reduced H-2 class I antigen expression.


Nat Immun. 1992 Jul-Aug;11(4):203-14.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Natural immunity

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