T cell cytokine profile during primary Epstein-Barr virus infection (infectious mononucleosis)

Eur Cytokine Netw. Jan-Mar 2003;14(1):34-9.


Cytokine profiles of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subsets were evaluated in 8 patients with infectious mononucleosis (IM). Intracellular detection of cytokines using flow cytometry revealed an expansion of IFN-gamma-expressing CD4+ T cells, and particularly CD8+ T cells, while IL-2 expressing cells were less frequently encountered when compared to healthy controls. Single TNF-alpha-expressing CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were likewise reduced and shifted towards IFN-gamma/TNF-alpha co-production. The predominant pro-inflammatory type 1-biased immune response during IM was emphasized by low frequencies of IL-10 expression in both T cell subsets, although some patients displayed elevated serum levels. Six months later, a decreased, but still elevated IFN-gamma expression within the CD8+ T cell subset, and an increased percentage of IL-2-expressing CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, reaching values shown for controls, were noted. Type 2-associated cytokines such as IL-4 and IL-13, as well as IL-6 and TNF-alpha were not significantly different when compared to controls at study entry and at follow-up. The striking expansion of IFN-gamma-producing CD8+ T cells with rather low expression of IL-10, appears to be a key factor for clinically overt disease, but is nevertheless compatible with successful control of the viral infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • CD4-CD8 Ratio
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / immunology*
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-2 / blood
  • Interleukin-4 / blood
  • Reference Values
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma