Background: Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) causes a highly prevalent infection which may have a multifaceted impact on chronic inflammatory disorders. However, its potential influence in multiple sclerosis (MS) remains controversial. The HCMV-host interaction may induce an adaptive reconfiguration of the natural killer (NK) cell compartment, whose hallmark is a persistent expansion of peripheral NKG2C+ NK-cells.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the HCMV-driven NKG2C+ NK-cell expansion is related to the MS clinical course.
Methods: Multicentre analysis of NKG2C expression and genotype according to HCMV serostatus and time of assignment of irreversible disability scores in 246 MS patients prospectively followed up in our institutions.
Results: NKG2C expression was unrelated to disease-modifying drugs, remained stable under steady-state conditions, and was higher in HCMV(+) NKG2C(+/+) homozygous individuals. NKG2C+ NK-cell expansion in HCMV(+) patients, as compared to HCMV(+) or HCMV(-) patients with lower NKG2C+ NK-cells proportions, conferred a lower risk of progression in Cox regression analysis (Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS)>3.0, hazard ratio (HR)=0.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.15-0.71, p=0.005; EDSS>5.5, HR=0.23, 95% CI 0.07-0.74, p=0.014). Neither HCMV serostatus nor NKG2C genotype appeared to be related to disability progression.
Conclusions: HCMV may exert a beneficial influence on MS, decreasing the risk of disability progression in those patients displaying a virus-driven NKG2C+ NK-cell expansion.
Keywords: Cytomegalovirus; NKG2C; disability progression; herpesvirus; multiple sclerosis; natural killer cells.
© The Author(s), 2015.