Depletion of peripheral blood T lymphocytes and NK cells during the course of ebola hemorrhagic Fever in cynomolgus macaques

Viral Immunol. 2004;17(3):390-400. doi: 10.1089/vim.2004.17.390.


During the course of an experimentally induced Ebola virus (EBOVA) infection of cynomolgus macaques, peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated and characterized by multi-color flow cytometry. Both CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte counts decreased 60-70% during the first 4 days after infection. Among CD8+ lymphocytes, this decline was greatest among the CD8(lo) population, which was composed mostly of CD3- CD16+ NK cells. In contrast, the number of CD20+ B lymphocytes in the blood did not significantly change during the course of the infection. Phenotypic analysis of T lymphocyte subsets by flow cytometry failed to show evidence of a robust immune response to the infection. Apoptosis could be detected as early as day 2 postinfection among the CD8+ and CD16+ subsets of lymphocytes. Increased expression of CD95 (Fas) suggests that apoptosis may be induced via signaling through the Fas/Fas-L cascade. In contrast, the number of HLA-DR+ cells increased tenfold in the blood during the course of infection. These data suggest that EBOV may block dendritic cell maturation after infection, thereby inhibiting activation of lymphocytes and eliminating those subsets that are most likely to be capable of mounting an effective response to the virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD20 / analysis
  • CD8 Antigens / analysis
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Receptors, IgG / analysis
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • fas Receptor / analysis


  • Antigens, CD20
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Receptors, IgG
  • fas Receptor