Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is associated with wheezing illness, and infections can occur repeatedly throughout life. We hypothesized that RSV infection of respiratory tract epithelial cells up-regulates B7 molecules that regulate memory immune responses and that type 1 and 2 cytokines differentially modulate this induction.
Methods: We used flow-cytometric analysis to investigate programmed death-1 ligand (PD-L) 1, PD-L2, B7-H3, and inducible costimulatory ligand (ICOS-L) expression on tracheal (NCI-H292), bronchial (BEAS-2B), and alveolar (A549) epithelial cells; regulation of this expression by RSV, interferon (IFN)- gamma , and interleukin (IL)-4; and the effects of IFN-gamma and IL-4 on RSV-induced expression of these molecules.
Results: B7-H3 was strongly expressed, PD-L1 and ICOS-L were moderately expressed, and PD-L2 was weakly expressed on unstimulated tracheal, bronchial, and alveolar epithelial cells. RSV infection up-regulated PD-L1, PD-L2, and B7-H3 expression on all cells and ICOS-L expression on bronchial and alveolar epithelial cells. IL-4 treatment alone had no effect, whereas IFN-gamma treatment alone increased PD-L1 and PD-L2 expression on all cells and decreased B7-H3 expression on bronchial and alveolar epithelial cells. On RSV-infected alevolar epithelial cells, IFN-gamma treatment increased PD-L1 and PD-L2 expression and decreased B7-H3 and ICOS-L expression, and IL-4 treatment increased PD-L2 and B7-H3 expression and decreased ICOS-L expression.
Conclusions: Respiratory tract epithelial cells express a wide range of B7 molecules. RSV infection increases their expression, and this expression is differentially regulated by IFN-gamma and IL-4. These processes may be involved in decreasing T cell antiviral immune responses to RSV and in RSV-associated wheezing.