Study of the mechanisms by which CD4+ T cells contribute to protection in Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis.
Borrow P., Welsh CJ., Nash AA.
Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) is a picornavirus which causes a biphasic central nervous system (CNS) disease in certain strains of mice. Lytic virus replication within the CNS causes acute damage at early times post-infection, with the surviving animals developing a chronic CNS demyelinating disease. This damage is thought to result both from direct viral damage and from an immunopathological CD4+ T-cell mediated delayed-type hypersensitivity response to virus. By contrast, CD4+ T cells have a vital protective role at early times post-infection, as mice specifically depleted of CD4+ T cells of this subset prior to infection with TMEV die within 3-5 weeks. In an investigation of how CD4+ T cells act to mediate protection in TMEV-infected mice, we show that CD4+ cell-depleted animals, which fail to make a significant antiviral antibody response, could be protected by passive transfer of neutralizing antibodies. However, surviving animals had high levels of persisting virus in the CNS and they developed very severe symptoms of chronic demyelinating disease. The appearance of infectious virus was not due to selection of neutralizing antibody-resistant viral variants. These results demonstrate that the key protective role of CD4+ T cells in TMEV-infected mice is to provide help for antibody production by B cells at early times post-infection, but that other CD4+ cell-dependent mechanisms must contribute to control of virus replication, and are of importance in determining the levels of virus subsequently persisting in the CNS, and hence the severity of the chronic demyelinating disease.