Measles virus induced immunosuppression: targets and effector mechanisms

Curr Mol Med. 2001 May;1(2):163-81. doi: 10.2174/1566524013363960.


A profound, transient suppression of immune functions during and after the acute infection is the major cause of more than one million cases of infant deaths associated with measles worldwide. Concommittant with the generation of an efficient measles virus (MV) specific immunity, immune responses towards other pathogens are strongly impaired and provide the basis for the establishment and severe course of opportunistic infections. The molecular basis for MV-induced immunosuppression has not been resolved as yet. Similar to other immunosuppressive viruses, MV is lymphotropic and viral nucleic acid and proteins are detectable in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). It is considered central to MV-induced immunosuppression that PBMC isolated from patients largely fail to proliferate in response to antigen specific and polyclonal stimulation. The low abundancy of MV-infected PBMC suggests that MV-induced immunosuppression is not directly caused by infection-mediated cell loss or fusion, but rather by indirect mechanisms such as deregulation of cytokines or surface contact-mediated signaling which may lead to apoptosis or impair the proliferative response of uninfected PBMC. Evidence for a role of any of these mechanisms was obtained in vitro, however, much has still to be learned about the tropism of MV and its interactions with particular host cells such as dendritic cells in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Measles / immunology*
  • Measles / physiopathology
  • Measles virus / immunology*
  • Measles virus / physiology
  • Membrane Cofactor Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Models, Immunological
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD46 protein, human
  • Membrane Cofactor Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins