MHV infection of the CNS: mechanisms of immune-mediated control

Viral Immunol. 2001;14(1):1-18. doi: 10.1089/08828240151061329.


Mice infected with neurotropic strains of mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) clear infectious virus; nevertheless, viral persistence in the central nervous system (CNS) is associated with ongoing primary demyelination. Acute infection induces a potent regional CD8+ T-cell response. The high prevalence of virus specific T cells correlates with ex vivo cytolytic activity, interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) secretion and efficient reduction in virus. Viral clearance from most cell types is controlled by a perforin dependent mechanism. However, IFN-gamma is essential for controlling virus replication in oligodendrocytes. Furthermore, CD4+ T cells enhance CD8+ T-cell survival and effectiveness. Clearance of infectious virus is associated with a gradual decline of CNS T cells; nevertheless, activated T cells are retained within the CNS. The loss of cytolytic activity, but retention of IFN-gamma secretion during viral clearance suggests stringent regulation of CD8+ T-cell effector function, possibly as a means to minimize CNS damage. However, similar CD8+ T-cell responses to demyelinating and non demyelinating JHMV variants support the notion that CD8+ T cells do not contribute to the demyelinating process. Although T-cell retention is tightly linked to the presence of persisting virus, contributions to regulating the latent state are unknown. Studies in B-cell-deficient mice suggest that antibodies are required to prevent virus recrudescence. Although acute JHMV infection is thus primarily controlled by CD8+ T cells, both CD4+ T cells and B cells make significant contributions in maintaining the balance between viral replication and immune control, thus allowing host and pathogen survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Infections / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / virology
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Murine hepatitis virus / immunology*