Immumobiology of cytotoxic T-cell escape mutants of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus

Demetrius Moskophidis, Rolf M. Zinkernagel

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81 Scopus citations


Infection with virus variants exhibiting changes in the peptide sequences defining immunodominant determinants that abolish recognition by antiviral cytotoxic T cells (CTL) presents a considerable challenge to the antiviral T-cell immune system and may enable some viruses to persist in hosts. The potential importance of such variants with respect to mechanisms of viral persistence and disease pathogenesis was assessed by infecting adult mice with variants of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) strain WE. These variants were selected in vivo or in vitro for resistance to lysis by CD8+ H-2b -restricted antiviral CTL. The majority of anti-LCMV CTL in infected H-2b mice recognize epitopes defined by residues 32 to 42 and 275 to 289 (epitopes 32-42 and 275-289) of the LCMV glycoprotein or 397 to 407 of the viral nucleoprotein. The 8.7 variant exhibits a change in the epitope 32-42 (Val-35→Leu), and variant CL1.2 exhibits a change in the epitope 275-289 (Asn-280→Asp) of the wild-type LCMV-WE. The double-mutated 8.7-B23 variant had the variation of 8.7 and an additional change located in the epitope 275-289 (Asn-280→Ser). The 8.7 variant peptide with unchanged anchor positions bound efficiently to H-2Db and H-2Kb molecules but induced only a very weak CTL response. CTL epitope 275-289 of CL1.2 and 8.7-B23 altered at predicted anchor residues were unable to bind Db molecules and were also not recognized by antiviral CTL. Infection of C57BL/6 mice (H-2b) with the variants exhibiting mutations of one of the CTL epitopes, i.e., 8.7 or CL1.2, induced CTL responses specific for the unmutated epitopes comparable with those induced by infection with WE, and these responses were sufficient to eliminate virus from the host. In contrast, infection with the double-mutated variant 8.7-B23 induced CTL activity that was reduced by a factor of about 50-fold compared with wild-type LCMV. Consequently, high doses (107 PFU intravenously) of this virus were eliminated slowly and only by about day 100 after infection. 8.7-B23 failed to cause lethal lymphocytic choriomeningitis after intracerebral infection with a dose of > 104 PFU in C57BL/6 mice (but not in mice of nonselecting H-2d haplotype); with the other variants or wild-type LCMV, doses greater than 106 to 107 PFU were necessary to avoid lethal choriomeningitis. Thus, CTL escape mutations in a noncytopathic virus, even in only some but not of all CTL epitopes, significantly modulate the virus-host relationships and disease patterns in an major histocompatibility complex-specific and dose-dependent fashion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2187-2193
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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