Viruses as adjuvants for autoimmunity: evidence from Coxsackievirus-induced myocarditis

Rev Med Virol. 2005 Jan-Feb;15(1):17-27. doi: 10.1002/rmv.445.


Adjuvants historically are considered to stimulate immune responses 'non-specifically'. Recently, a renewed understanding of the critical role of innate immunity in influencing the development of an adaptive immune response has led researchers to a better understanding of 'the adjuvant effect'. Although innate immune cells do not respond to specific antigenic epitopes on pathogens, they do produce restricted responses to particular classes of pathogens via pattern recognition receptors such as Toll-like receptors (TLR). Coxsackievirus infection was found to upregulate TLR4 on mast cells and macrophages immediately following infection. Although both susceptible and resistant mice produce a mixture of Th1 and Th2 cytokines, susceptible mice have increased levels of key proinflammatory cytokines, increased numbers of mast cells, and go on to develop chronic autoimmune heart disease. TLR4 signalling also increases acute myocarditis and proinflammatory cytokines in the heart. Many similarities are described in the pathogenesis of Coxsackievirus and the adjuvant-induced model of myocarditis including upregulation of particular TLRs and cytokines soon after inoculation. Recent findings suggest that mast cell activation by viruses or adjuvants may be important in initiating autoimmune disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic*
  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Coxsackievirus Infections / immunology*
  • Coxsackievirus Infections / virology
  • Enterovirus B, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mast Cells / virology
  • Mice
  • Myocarditis / immunology*
  • Myocarditis / virology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4