Vaccinia Virus Interleukin-18-Binding Protein Promotes Virulence by Reducing Gamma Interferon Production and Natural Killer and T-Cell Activity
Reading PC., Smith GL.
ABSTRACT Interleukin-18 (IL-18) is a proinflammatory cytokine that promotes natural killer (NK) and T-cell activation. Several poxviruses, including vaccinia virus (VV), encode a soluble IL-18-binding protein (IL-18bp). The role of the VV IL-18bp (gene C12L) in vivo was studied with wild-type (vC12L), deletion mutant (vΔC12L), and revertant (vC12L-rev) viruses in a murine intranasal model of infection. The data show that vΔC12L was markedly attenuated, characterized by a mild weight loss and reduced virus titers in lungs, brain, and spleen. Three days after infection, NK cytotoxic activity was augmented in the lung, spleen, and mediastinal lymph nodes (MLNs) of vΔC12L-infected mice compared to controls. Seven days after infection, vΔC12L-infected mice displayed heightened VV-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses in the lungs, spleen, and MLNs. Gamma interferon (IFN-γ) levels were also dramatically elevated in lavage fluids and cells from lungs of mice infected with vΔC12L. Finally, we demonstrate that IL-18 is produced in vitro and in vivo after VV infection. Taken together, these data demonstrate a role for the vIL-18bp in counteracting IL-18 in both the innate and the specific immune response to VV infection and indicate that the ability of IL-18 to promote vigorous T-cell responses (cytotoxic activity and IFN-γ production) is a critical factor in the accelerated clearance of the vΔC12L mutant.