Mechanisms of viral clearance and persistence.
Using examples predominantly drawn from study of the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) model system, this review describes the mechanisms involved in control of virus infections by the cell-mediated immune response, and some of the different strategies viruses have evolved to evade such immune clearance so that they can persist in their hosts. The important role played by the CD8+ cytotoxic lymphocyte (CTL) response in clearance of many systemic virus infections is discussed; and it is emphasized that although CD8+ CTL are classically thought of as lymphocytes which mediate lysis of virus-infected target cells, the principal mechanism by which CD8+ T cells effect clearance of persistent and many acute virus infections via production of antiviral cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma, not via destruction of virus-producing cells. To avoid immune-mediated clearance, viruses frequently use a combination of several different strategies. These can be grouped into mechanisms for avoiding recognition by the immune response (such as establishing latent infections, replicating in immune-privileged sites, down-regulating the expression of immune recognition signals on the surface of infected cells, or undergoing antigenic variation); and mechanisms for suppressing the immune response. The latter include generalized immune suppression mechanisms, and strategies for more precisely disabling the specific immune response such as inducing tolerance or exhaustion of virus-specific CTL. The value of understanding both immune clearance mechanisms and viral evasion strategies in the rational design of immune-based therapies to combat persistent virus infections is discussed.