Persistence of vesicular stomatitis virus in cloned interleukin-2-dependent natural killer cell lines.
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We have investigated virus-lymphocyte interactions by using cloned subpopulations of interleukin-2-dependent effector lymphocytes maintained in vitro. Cloned lines of H-2-restricted hapten- or virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) and alloantigen-specific CTL were resistant to productive infection by vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). In contrast, cloned lines of natural killer (NK) cells were readily and persistently infected by VSV, a virus which is normally highly cytolytic. VSV-infected NK cells continued to proliferate, express viral surface antigen, and produce infectious virus. Furthermore, persistently infected NK cells showed no marked alteration of normal cellular morphology and continued to lyse NK-sensitive target cells albeit at a slightly but significantly reduced level. The persistence of VSV in NK cells did not appear to be caused by the generation of temperature-sensitive viral mutants, defective interfering particles, or interferon. Consequently, studies comparing the intracellular synthesis and maturation of VSV proteins in infected NK and mouse L cells were conducted. In contrast to L cells, in which host cell protein synthesis was essentially totally inhibited by infection, the infection of NK cells caused no marked diminution in the synthesis of host cell proteins. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of immunoprecipitates of viral proteins from infected cells showed that the maturation rate and size of VSV surface G glycoprotein were comparable in L cells and NK cells. Nucleocapsid (N) protein synthesis also appeared to be unaffected in NK cells. In contrast, the viral proteins NS and M appeared to be selectively degraded in NK cell extracts. Mixing experiments suggested that a protease in NK cells was responsible for the selective breakdown of VSV NS protein. Finally, VSV-infected NK cells were resistant to lysis by virus-specific CTL, suggesting that persistently infected NK cells may harbor virus and avoid cell-mediated immune destruction in an immunocompetent host.
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