Viral infections are a significant cause of disease in humans. While some viral diseases have been eliminated, many more continue to infect millions. Viral infections are challenging to treat because viruses use host cell machinery to replicate, so it is difficult to develop drugs that can target viruses. Normally, the host’s immune system is capable of destroying the virus, but during chronic infections it becomes exhausted and T cells lose their effector functions necessary for the clearance of the virus. IL-2 can help relieve this exhaustion, but causes toxicity to the body. In mice infected with chronic LCMV, IL-2 administration causes death due to pulmonary hemorrhage. CD4 deficient mice were infected with chronic LCMV and then dosed with IL-2 and survived, but mice that were deficient for CD8 T cells died, indicating that toxicity was mediated by CD8 T cells. CD8 T cells can kill infected host cells directly by producing perforin, or can produce cytokines like IFN-γ and TNF to further activate the immune system and mediate killing. Mice that were deficient in perforin died after IL-2 administration, as well as mice that were deficient in IFN-γ. Mice deficient in TNF, however, survived, indicating that TNF was mediating the toxicity in response to IL-2. There are two different receptors for TNF, p55 and p75. p55 is known as TNFR1 and has been implicated in apoptosis of virally infected cells. P75 is known as TNFR2 and is associated more with inflammation in response to infection. My hypothesis was that if TNFR2 was knocked out, infected mice would survive IL-2 dosing. When single knockouts of TNFR1 and 2 were used in an experiment however, it was found that either receptor is capable of mediating toxicity, as both experimental groups failed to survive. This is relevant to current IL-2 therapies because there is no way to eliminate a single receptor in order to reduce toxicity. Further studies exploring the anti-viral capabilities of IFN-γ are suggested.
- The Role of Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptors p55 and p75 in Acute IL-2 Toxicity in Chronic Viral Infections