Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Decreased neutrophil adhesion to human cytomegalovirus-infected retinal pigment epithelial cells is mediated by virus-induced up-regulation of Fas ligand independent of neutrophil apoptosis.

PMID 11035078


Human CMV (HCMV) retinitis frequently leads to blindness in iatrogenically immunosuppressed patients and in the end stage of AIDS. Despite the general proinflammatory potential of HCMV, virus infection is associated with a rather mild cellular inflammatory response in the retina. To investigate this phenomenon, the influence of HCMV (strains AD169 or Hi91) infection on C-X-C chemokine secretion, ICAM-1 expression, and neutrophil recruitment in cultured human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells was studied. Supernatants from infected cultures contained enhanced levels of IL-8 and melanoma growth-stimulating activity/Gro alpha and induced neutrophil chemotaxis compared with supernatants from uninfected RPE cells. Despite HCMV-induced ICAM-1 expression on RPE cells, binding of activated neutrophils to HCMV-infected RPE cells and subsequent transepithelial penetration were significantly reduced. Reduced neutrophil adhesion to infected RPE cells correlated with HCMV-induced up-regulation of constitutive Fas ligand (FasL) expression. Functional blocking of FasL on RPE cells with the neutralizing mAbs NOK-1 and NOK-2 or of the Fas receptor on neutrophils with mAbB-D29 prevented the HCMV-induced impairment of neutrophil/RPE interactions. Fas-FasL-dependent impairment of neutrophil binding had occurred by 10 min after neutrophil/RPE coculture without apoptotic signs. Neutrophil apoptosis was first detected after 4 h. Treatment of neutrophils with a specific inhibitor of caspase-8 suppressed apoptosis, whereas it did not prevent impaired neutrophil binding to infected RPE. The current results suggest a novel role for FasL in the RPE regulation of neutrophil binding. This may be an important feature of virus escape mechanisms and for sustaining the immune-privileged character of the retina during HCMV ocular infection.