CD4+ T-cell help is required for effective CD8+ T cell-mediated resolution of acute viral hepatitis in mice

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e86348. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086348. eCollection 2014.


Cytotoxic CD8+ T cells are essential for the control of viral liver infections, such as those caused by HBV or HCV. It is not entirely clear whether CD4+ T-cell help is necessary for establishing anti-viral CD8+ T cell responses that successfully control liver infection. To address the role of CD4+ T cells in acute viral hepatitis, we infected mice with Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV) of the strain WE; LCMV-WE causes acute hepatitis in mice and is cleared from the liver by CD8+ T cells within about two weeks. The role of CD4+ T-cell help was studied in CD4+ T cell-lymphopenic mice, which were either induced by genetic deficiency of the major histocompatibility (MHC) class II transactivator (CIITA) in CIITA-/- mice, or by antibody-mediated CD4+ cell depletion. We found that CD4+ T cell-lymphopenic mice developed protracted viral liver infection, which seemed to be a consequence of reduced virus-specific CD8+ T-cell numbers in the liver. Moreover, the anti-viral effector functions of the liver-infiltrating CD8+ T cells in response to stimulation with LCMV peptide, notably the IFN-γ production and degranulation capacity were impaired in CIITA-/- mice. The impaired CD8+ T-cell function in CIITA-/- mice was not associated with increased expression of the exhaustion marker PD-1. Our findings indicate that CD4+ T-cell help is required to establish an effective antiviral CD8+ T-cell response in the liver during acute viral infection. Insufficient virus control and protracted viral hepatitis may be consequences of impaired initial CD4+ T-cell help.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Hepatitis / immunology*
  • Hepatitis / virology
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / virology
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis / virology
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / virology


  • Interferon-gamma

Grant support

The study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 841) ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.