Background: Respiratory tract viruses are a major environmental risk factor for both the inception and exacerbations of asthma. Genetic defects in Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7-mediated signaling, impaired type I interferon responses, or both have been reported in asthmatic patients, although their contribution to the onset and exacerbation of asthma remains poorly understood.
Objective: We sought to determine whether Pneumovirus infection in the absence of TLR7 predisposes to bronchiolitis and the inception of asthma.
Methods: Wild-type and TLR7-deficient (TLR7(-/-)) mice were inoculated with the rodent-specific pathogen pneumonia virus of mice at 1 (primary), 7 (secondary), and 13 (tertiary) weeks of age, and pathologic features of bronchiolitis or asthma were assessed. In some experiments infected mice were exposed to low-dose cockroach antigen.
Results: TLR7 deficiency increased viral load in the airway epithelium, which became sloughed and necrotic, and promoted an IFN-α/β(low), IL-12p70(low), IL-1β(high), IL-25(high), and IL-33(high) cytokine microenvironment that was associated with the recruitment of type 2 innate lymphoid cells/nuocytes and increased TH2-type cytokine production. Viral challenge of TLR7(-/-) mice induced all of the cardinal pathophysiologic features of asthma, including tissue eosinophilia, mast cell hyperplasia, IgE production, airway smooth muscle alterations, and airways hyperreactivity in a memory CD4(+) T cell-dependent manner. Importantly, infections with pneumonia virus of mice promoted allergic sensitization to inhaled cockroach antigen in the absence but not the presence of TLR7.
Conclusion: TLR7 gene defects and Pneumovirus infection interact to establish an aberrant adaptive response that might underlie virus-induced asthma exacerbations in later life.
Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.