Il-18, but not Il-12, Regulates Nk Cell Activity following Intranasal Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infection

Reading, P.C.; Whitney, P.G.; Barr, D.P.; Wojtasiak, M.; Mintern, J.D.; Waithman, J.; Brooks, A.G.

The Journal of Immunology 179(5): 3214-3221


DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.179.5.3214
Accession: 068490760

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Infection of the respiratory tract with HSV type 1 (HSV-1) can have severe clinical complications, yet little is known of the immune mechanisms that control the replication and spread of HSV-1 in this site. The present study investigated the protective role of IL-12 and IL-18 in host defense against intranasal HSV-1 infection. Both IL-12 and IL-18 were detected in lung fluids following intranasal infection of C57BL/6 (B6) mice. IL-18-deficient (B6.IL-18(-/-)) mice were more susceptible to HSV-1 infection than wild-type B6 mice as evidenced by exacerbated weight loss and enhanced virus growth in the lung. IL-12-deficient (B6.IL-12(-/-)) mice behaved similarly to B6 controls. Enhanced susceptibility of B6.IL-18(-/-) mice to HSV-1 infection correlated with a profound impairment in the ability of NK cells recovered from the lungs to produce IFN-gamma or to mediate cytotoxic activity ex vivo. The weak cytotoxic capacity of NK cells from the lungs of B6.IL-18(-/-) mice correlated with reduced expression of the cytolytic effector molecule granzyme B. Moreover, depletion of NK cells from B6 or B6.IL-12(-/-) mice led to enhanced viral growth in lungs by day 3 postinfection; however, this treatment had no effect on viral titers in lungs of B6.IL-18(-/-) mice. Together these studies demonstrate that IL-18, but not IL-12, plays a key role in the rapid activation of NK cells and therefore in control of early HSV-1 replication in the lung.