EBV-associated mononucleosis leads to long-term global deficit in T cell responsiveness to IL-15

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In mice, interleukin-7 (IL-7) and IL-15 are involved in T-cell homeostasis and the maintenance of immunologic memory. Here, we follow virus-induced responses in infectious mononucleosis (IM) patients from primary Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection into long-term virus carriage, monitoring IL-7 and IL-15 receptor (IL-R) expression by antibody staining and cytokine responsiveness by STAT5 phosphorylation and in vitro proliferation. Expression of IL-7Ralpha was lost from all CD8+ T cells, including EBV epitope-specific populations, during acute IM. Thereafter, expression recovered quickly on total CD8+ cells but slowly and incompletely on EBV-specific memory cells. Expression of IL-15Ralpha was also lost in acute IM and remained undetectable thereafter not just on EBV-specific CD8+ populations but on the whole peripheral T- and natural killer (NK)-cell pool. This deficit, correlating with defective IL-15 responsiveness in vitro, was consistently observed in patients up to 14 years after IM but not in patients after cytomegalovirus (CMV)-associated mononucleosis, or in healthy EBV carriers with no history of IM, or in EBV-naive individuals. By permanently scarring the immune system, symptomatic primary EBV infection provides a unique cohort of patients through which to study the effects of impaired IL-15 signaling on human lymphocyte functions in vitro and in vivo.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-18
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2006