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Title: Analysis of the immune evasion mechanisms of varicella zoster virus
Author: Gwela, Agnes A.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is an alpha herpes virus that causes primary infection with varicella (chicken pox), establishes latency in ganglia and may later reactivate as herpes zoster (shingles). Innate immune effectors are thought to control initial viral replication, but it is the adaptive immune system, involving T cells that mediates eventual control of viraemia and the associated clinical disease. Although both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells mediate viral clearance during acute illness, memory responses are dominated by CD4+ T cells. We tested the hypothesis that the paucity in memory CD8+ T cell effectors is partly attributed to immune evasion mechanisms that are mounted by VZV. We confirmed that VZV readily down regulates cell surface HLA-A and HLA-C but spares HLA-B onVZV infected keratinocytes and VZV infected Mewo cells. Analysis of intracellular HLA protein expression and gene transcription showed global down regulation of all HLA subtypes. Further analysis showed that VZV inhibits IFN-γ mediated up regulation of HLA expression and augments IFN-γ mediated up regulation of HLA-E and CD71 expression. Furthermore, we show that acute VZV infection lowers the frequency of circulating peripheral blood myeloid dendritic cells (mDC), reduces the expression of the DC activation marker HLA-DR and impairs inflammatory cytokine secretion in blood DC populations. Inhibition of DC cytokine secretion was found to be dependent on viral replication as irradiated virus resulted only in mild inhibition of IFN-α and TNF-α secretion. Lastly, we observed that VZV infection results in increased expression of host peptides, including MHC derived leader sequences that potentially bind to HLA-E. Cell surface HLA-E is known to be a ligand for the natural killer (NK) cell inhibitory receptor CD94/ NKG2A identifying a novel mechanism of viral immune escape from NK cell surveillance. In conclusion, our data reiterates the fact that VZV targets different aspects of antigen presentation to evade the immune system with implications for pathogenesis and approaches to improved vaccination and treatment.
Supervisor: Ogg, Graham Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Medical Sciences ; Immunology ; Viruses ; human immunology ; herpesviruses ; immune evasion