Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Longterm immune memory cells cells do not develop during chronic viral infections


Finding by Emory University scientists has implications for vaccines, antiviral therapies and cancer treatment

Immune T cells that respond to chronic viral infections do not acquire the same "memory" capabilities of T cells that respond to acute viral infections, according to research by scientists at Emory University. The finding may explain why people lose their immunity to some viruses after chronic infections are controlled. It could guide scientists in developing better therapeutic combinations of antiviral therapies and therapeutic vaccines. The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead author of the study is E. John Wherry, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center. Senior author is Rafi Ahmed, PhD, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, and professor of microbiology and immunology.

The immune system responds to viral infections in two ways: with antibodies that help prevent viruses from entering cells and with T cells activated in response to viral antigens. T cells kill the virus-infected cells and produce proteins called cytokines that prevent the growth of viruses and make cells resistant to viral infection. During the acute phase of a viral infection, activated CD8 T cells respond aggressively for a few weeks, then about five percent of them become "memory cells" that maintain a stable memory T cell population by slow, steady turnover. These memory cells are poised to mount an even stronger and more rapid response to future attacks by the same virus. Individuals who acquire immunity to diseases such as measles, yellow fever, smallpox, or polio, either through exposure or vaccination, often are capable of retaining that immunity for many years or for an entire lifetime.

Dr. Ahmed and his colleagues discovered in previous research that following acute viral infections, immune memory CD8 T cells continue to maintain their ability to attack viruses even when they are not continuously stimulated by viral antigen (Science, Nov. 12, 1999). Other studies have suggested, however, that during some chronic infections continuing exposure to viral antigen may be necessary to maintain protective immunity.

The Emory researchers used a mouse model of infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) to study the differences in CD8 memory T cell immune response following acute and chronic infections. In mice with the acute infection, the virus was cleared by a CD8 T cell immune response within one week. In mice with the chronic infection, high virus levels were present in multiple tissues for the first two to three months, then the virus was controlled in most tissues by a T cell response but was not completely eliminated.

To directly compare the memory capabilities of cells from both types of infection, the scientists transferred both acute memory and chronic memory CD8 T cells into uninfected mice, without transferring any of the viral antigen. The acute memory cells were maintained through homeostasis and divided several times, but the chronic memory cells failed to divide and declined in number over time. When the chronic memory CD8 T cells were transferred back into chronically infected mice where they re-encountered antigen, the cells began to recover.

The scientists also compared other important qualities of memory T cells, including the responsiveness to cytokine signaling by interleukin 7 (IL-7) and interleukin 15 (IL-15). Response to these cytokines is a critical part of the immune pathway that allows memory CD8 T cells to undergo homeostatic division and to persist even in the absence of viral antigen. They found that chronic memory CD8 T cells responded poorly to both IL-7 and IL-15, whereas acute memory CD8T cells proliferated in response to both cytokines. Additional research could show whether the defect in chronic memory cell response to IL-7 and IL-15 can be overcome by increasing the expression of these cytokines, or whether other deficiencies in the pathway exist.

"The normal memory CD8 T cell differentiation program that occurs after acute infection results in memory cells that are capable of long-term persistence in the absence of antigen as a result of slow homeostatic proliferation in response to IL-7 and IL-15," said Dr. Ahmed. "We have shown that during chronic LCMV infection this memory pathway does not proceed efficiently and that virus-specific CD8 T cells do not acquire the cardinal property of antigen-independent persistence."

The Emory scientists also concluded that rest from antigen exposure is an important criterion for developing long-term immune memory. Acute memory T cells are exposed to antigen for a finite time period after an acute infection, then after the virus with antigen is eliminated, these cells differentiate into memory T cells. A recent study of HIV infection showed that if antiretroviral therapy is initiated during the early phase of infection, HIV-specific CD8 T cells are maintained more efficiently.

"Our research shows that prolonged exposure to antigen without any rest results in cells that are "addicted" to antigen and cannot persist without it," Dr. Ahmed explains. "This raises concerns about vaccine strategies that use persisting antigen, because antigen-independent memory T cells may not develop."

The study may help explain the loss of T cell immunity seen in some chronic infections that are eventually controlled and eliminated, and the ability of some persistent tumors to provide protection from a secondary tumor challenge if the original tumor is not removed. "Giving T cells a rest by terminating exposure to viral antigen simulation following the acute phase of infection seems to be necessary if T cells are to differentiate into long-term antigen-independent memory T cells," Dr. Ahmed says. "Therapeutic vaccine approaches that provide antigen re-stimulation during persistent infections may not allow the ability for memory T-cell proliferation. However, antiviral therapy or cancer chemotherapy may provide rest from antigen stimulation and allow partial recovery of some memory T cell functions. By combining drug treatment with therapeutic vaccination or cytokine therapies we may be able to prevent loss of T cell memory and establish long-term protective immunity."

Holly Korschun | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>