Following the priming and contraction phases of the T cell response, latent persistent herpesviruses lead to an accumulation of large pools of virus-specific CD8 T cells, also known as memory inflation (MI). The mechanism of this inflation is incompletely understood, largely because the molecular reactivation of these viruses in vivo and its impact upon T cell biology have not been resolved in mice, and because the relevant observations in humans remain, by necessity, correlative. Understanding these processes is essential from the standpoint of the proposed critical role for latent herpesviruses in aging of the immune system. We studied the causes of memory CD8 T cell accumulation following systemic HSV-1 administration as a model of widespread latent viral infection in humans. A direct role of viral latency and Ag-specific restimulation in driving the accumulation and maintenance of inflated CD8 T cells and a strongly suggested role of viral reactivation in that process were shown by the following: 1) lack of MI in the absence of established latency; 2) prevention or delay of MI with drugs that curtail viral replication; and 3) abrogation of MI by the transfer of inflated T cells into a virus-free environment. These results strongly suggest that periodic, subclinical reactivations of a latent persistent virus cause dysregulation of memory CD8 T cell homeostasis, similar to the one in humans. Moreover, results with antiviral drugs suggest that this approach could be considered as a treatment modality for maintaining T cell diversity and/or function in old age.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy