In measles virus (MV) infection in humans, meningitis and encephalitis are important complications. However, little is known of the pathogenesis of MV encephalitis, in particular about the role of the immune response. We have examined the role of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in a mouse model of MV-induced encephalitis. We report here that the resistance of inbred strains of mice to MV-induced encephalitis correlated with the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) haplotype and that only resistant mouse strains mounted an effective CTL response to MV. Mice with low susceptibility to MV infection, such as the BALB/c strain (H-2d), generated CTL, whereas the highly susceptible strains, C3H (H-2k) and C57BL/6 (H-2b), revealed very poor CTL responses. MV-induced CTL were usually CD8+, and the generation of these cells was independent of the route of inoculation or the time postinfection. CD4+ T cells were generally only weakly lytic. The nucleocapsid protein was the major target antigen for CTL in BALB/c mice, although in some experiments the hemagglutinin was also recognized. CTL from C3H and C57BL/6 mice did not lyse MV-infected target cells. However, targets infected with vaccinia virus recombinants expressing the nucleocapsid protein or hemagglutinin were lysed, but levels of cytotoxicity were still low. Experiments using target cells transfected with single MHC class I genes suggested inefficient antigen presentation of MV proteins by the MHC molecules of the H-2k and H-2b haplotypes
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