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Enhanced CD8 T-cell anti-viral function and clinical disease in B7-H1-deficient mice requires CD4 T cells during encephalomyelitis

Timothy W Phares1, Stephen A Stohlman1, David R Hinton2 and Cornelia C Bergmann1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Neurosciences NC30, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44195, USA

2 Department of Pathology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90033, USA

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:269  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-269

Published: 14 December 2012



Anti-viral CD8 T-cell activity is enhanced and prolonged by CD4 T-cell-mediated help, but negatively regulated by inhibitory B7-H1 interactions. During viral encephalomyelitis, the absence of CD4 T cells decreases CD8 T cell activity and impedes viral control in the central nervous system (CNS). By contrast, the absence of B7-H1 enhances CD8 T-cell function and accelerates viral control, but increases morbidity. However, the relative contribution of CD4 T cells to CD8 function in the CNS, in the absence of B7-H1, remains unclear.


Wild-type (WT) and B7-H1−/− mice were infected with a gliatropic coronavirus and CD4 T cells depleted to specifically block T helper function in the CNS. Flow cytometry and gene expression analysis of purified T-cell populations from lymph nodes and the CNS was used to directly monitor ex vivo T-cell effector function. The biological affects of altered T-cell responses were evaluated by analysis of viral control and spinal-cord pathology.


Increased anti-viral activity by CD8 T cells in the CNS of B7-H1−/− mice was lost upon depletion of CD4 T cells; however, despite concomitant loss of viral control, the clinical disease was less severe. CD4 depletion in B7-H1−/− mice also decreased inducible nitric oxide synthase expression by microglia and macrophages, consistent with decreased microglia/macrophage activation and reduced interferon (IFN)-γ. Enhanced production of IFN-γ, interleukin (IL)-10 and IL-21 mRNA was seen in CD4 T cells from infected B7-H1−/− compared with WT mice, suggesting that over-activated CD4 T cells primarily contribute to the increased pathology.


The local requirement of CD4 T-cell help for CD8 T-cell function is not overcome if B7-H1 inhibitory signals are lost. Moreover, the increased effector activity by CD8 T cells in the CNS of B7-H1−/− mice is attributable not only to the absence of B7-H1 upregulation on major histocompatibility complex class I-presenting resident target cells, but also to enhanced local CD4 T-cell function. B7-H1-mediated restraint of CD4 T-cell activity is thus crucial to dampen both CD8 T-cell function and microglia/macrophage activation, thereby providing protection from T-cell-mediated bystander damage.

Central nervous system; Encephalomyelitis; CD4+ and CD8+ T cells; Gliatropic coronavirus; Inflammation; Axonal damage