, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 252-258
Date: 28 Mar 2006

Immunostimulation by induced expression of NKG2D and its MIC ligands in HTLV-1-associated neurologic disease

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Abstract

The NKG2D receptor costimulates effector/memory CD8 T cells and is normally absent on CD4 T cells but can be induced by T cell antigen receptor complex stimulation and interleukin-15 (IL-15). Among its ligands are the human major histocompatibility complex class I-related MICA and MICB, which have a restricted tissue distribution but are frequently associated with malignancies and some microbial infections. Moreover, aberrant expression of MIC may promote autoimmune disease progression. Human T cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-1)-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that resembles multiple sclerosis. Disease progression involves production of IL-15 and its receptor through transactivation by the viral Tax regulator protein, an activated immune response state, and local cytokine production and T cell fratricide by Tax-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). This study shows that as with CD8 T cells, substantial proportions of HAM/TSP patient CD4 T cells are positive for NKG2D and that large numbers of T cells from both subsets express MIC, which can be transactivated by Tax independent of nuclear factor κB. Engagement of MIC by NKG2D promotes spontaneous HAM/TSP T cell proliferation and, apparently, CTL activities against HTLV-1-infected T cells. These results reveal a viral strategy that may exploit immune stimulatory mechanisms to negotiate a balance between promotion and limitation of infected host T cell expansions.