Journal of virology 2016 11 2890(24) 11259-11278
Epidemiological studies suggest that India has the largest number of dengue virus infection cases worldwide. However, there is minimal information about the immunological responses in these patients. CD8 T cells are important in dengue, because they have been implicated in both protection and immunopathology. Here, we provide a detailed analysis of HLA-DR(+) CD38(+) and HLA-DR(-) CD38(+) effector CD8 T cell subsets in dengue patients from India and Thailand. Both CD8 T cell subsets expanded and expressed markers indicative of antigen-driven proliferation, tissue homing, and cytotoxic effector functions, with the HLA-DR(+) CD38(+) subset being the most striking in these effector qualities. The breadth of the dengue-specific CD8 T cell response was diverse, with NS3-specific cells being the most dominant. Interestingly, only a small fraction of these activated effector CD8 T cells produced gamma interferon (IFN-γ) when stimulated with dengue virus peptide pools. Transcriptomics revealed downregulation of key molecules involved in T cell receptor (TCR) signaling. Consistent with this, the majority of these CD8 T cells remained IFN-γ unresponsive even after TCR-dependent polyclonal stimulation (anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28) but produced IFN-γ by TCR-independent polyclonal stimulation (phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate [PMA] plus ionomycin). Thus, the vast majority of these proliferating, highly differentiated effector CD8 T cells probably acquire TCR refractoriness at the time the patient is experiencing febrile illness that leads to IFN-γ unresponsiveness. Our studies open novel avenues for understanding the mechanisms that fine-tune the balance between CD8 T cell-mediated protective versus pathological effects in dengue.
Dengue is becoming a global public health concern. Although CD8 T cells have been implicated both in protection and in the cytokine-mediated immunopathology of dengue, how the balance is maintained between these opposing functions remains unknown. We comprehensively characterized CD8 T cell subsets in dengue patients from India and Thailand and show that these cells expand massively and express phenotypes indicative of overwhelming antigenic stimulus and tissue homing/cytotoxic-effector functions but that a vast majority of them fail to produce IFN-γ in vitro Interestingly, the cells were fully capable of producing the cytokine when stimulated in a T cell receptor (TCR)-independent manner but failed to do so in TCR-dependent stimulation. These results, together with transcriptomics, revealed that the vast majority of these CD8 T cells from dengue patients become cytokine unresponsive due to TCR signaling insufficiencies. These observations open novel avenues for understanding the mechanisms that fine-tune the balance between CD8-mediated protective versus pathological effects.