Measles virus-induced suppression of immune responses


  • Diane E. Griffin

    1. W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.
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Diane E. Griffin
W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe St, Rm E5132
Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
Tel.: +1 410 955 3459
Fax: +1 410 955 0105


Summary:  Measles is an important cause of child mortality that has a seemingly paradoxical interaction with the immune system. In most individuals, the immune response is successful in eventually clearing measles virus (MV) infection and in establishing life-long immunity. However, infection is also associated with persistence of viral RNA and several weeks of immune suppression, including loss of delayed type hypersensitivity responses and increased susceptibility to secondary infections. The initial T-cell response includes CD8+ and T-helper 1 CD4+ T cells important for control of infectious virus. As viral RNA persists, there is a shift to a T-helper 2 CD4+ T-cell response that likely promotes B-cell maturation and durable antibody responses but may suppress macrophage activation and T-helper 1 responses to new infections. Suppression of mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation can be induced by lymphocyte infection with MV or by lymphocyte exposure to a complex of the hemagglutinin and fusion surface glycoproteins without infection. Dendritic cells (DCs) are susceptible to infection and can transmit infection to lymphocytes. MV-infected DCs are unable to stimulate a mixed lymphocyte reaction and can induce lymphocyte unresponsiveness through expression of MV glycoproteins. Thus, multiple factors may contribute both to measles-induced immune suppression and to the establishment of durable protective immunity.