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Regulatory T Cells Prevent Th2 Immune Responses and Pulmonary Eosinophilia during Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection in Mice

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1128/jvi.01295-13
  • Pathogenesis And Immunity
  • Medicine


During viral infection, inflammation and recovery are tightly controlled by competing proinflammatory and regulatory immune pathways. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading global cause of infantile bronchiolitis, which is associated with recurrent wheeze and asthma diagnosis in later life. Th2-driven disease has been well described under some conditions for RSV-infected mice. In the present studies, we used the Foxp3DTR mice (which allow specific conditional depletion of Foxp3+ T cells) to investigate the functional effects of regulatory T cells (Tregs) during A2-strain RSV infection. Infected Treg-depleted mice lost significantly more weight than wild-type mice, indicating enhanced disease. This enhancement was characterized by increased cellularity in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and notable lung eosinophilia not seen in control mice. This was accompanied by abundant CD4+ and CD8+ T cells exhibiting an activated phenotype and induction of interleukin 13 (IL-13)- and GATA3-expressing Th2-type CD4+ T cells that remained present in the airways even 14 days after infection. Therefore, Treg cells perform vital anti-inflammatory functions during RSV infection, suppressing pathogenic T cell responses and inhibiting lung eosinophilia. These findings provide additional evidence that dysregulation of normal immune responses to viral infection may contribute to severe RSV disease.

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