Kinetics of ocular and systemic antigen-specific T-cell responses elicited during murine cytomegalovirus retinitis

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Abstract

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation in the retina of immunocompromized patients is a cause of significant morbidity as it can lead to blindness. The adaptive immune response is critical in controlling murine CMV (MCMV) infection in MCMV-susceptible mouse strains. CD8+ T cells limit systemic viral replication in the acute phase of infection and are essential to contain latent virus. In this study, we provide the first evaluation of the kinetics of anti-viral T-cell responses after subretinal infection with MCMV. The acute response was characterized by a rapid expansion phase, with infiltration of CD8+ T cells into the infected retina, followed by a contraction phase. MCMV-specific T cells displayed biphasic kinetics with a first peak at day 12 and contraction by day 18 followed by sustained recruitment of these cells into the retina at later time points post-infection. MCMV-specific CD8+ T cells were also observed in the draining cervical lymph nodes and the spleen. Presentation of viral epitopes and activation of CD8+ T cells was widespread and could be detected in the spleen and the draining lymph nodes, but not in the retina or iris. Moreover, after intraocular infection, antigen-specific cytotoxic activity was detectable and exhibited kinetics equivalent to those observed after intraperitoneal infection with the same viral dose. These data provide novel insights of how and where immune responses are initiated when viral antigen is present in the subretinal space.

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