Human natural killer cells limit replication of herpes simplex virus type 1 in vitro.

P. A. Fitzgerald, M. Mendelsohn, C. Lopez

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35 Scopus citations


Studies were undertaken to determine whether natural killer (NK) cells could inhibit the replication of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in culture. In the absence of effector cells, HSV-1 was found to replicate in fibroblasts with up to a 100-fold increase in virus titer from 4 to 16 hr after incubation at 37 degrees C. Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells were found to limit virus replication in a dose-dependent manner, with the greatest inhibition being observed at the highest concentration evaluated: i.e., an effector:target ratio of 800:1. The antiviral effect was not observed when nonactivated or virus-activated mononuclear cells were added to the virus preparations at the end (instead of the beginning) of the assay period, indicating that the observed effect was not due to a nonspecific toxicity of soluble factors released from freeze-thawed effectors. Neither was inhibition of HSV-1 replication due to the generation of interferon (IFN) during the NK assay, because the addition of anti-IFN did not abrogate the antiviral effect. Thus, the inhibition of viral replication was most likely due to a cytotoxic effector rather than to release of soluble factors. The effector cells responsible for limiting HSV-1 replication were shown to be NK cells by a number of criteria. Mononuclear cells from both HSV-1 seropositive and seronegative donors limited virus replication; their activity could be boosted by pretreatment of effector cells with IFN; the effector cells which limited virus replication were found in Percoll gradient fractions enriched for large granular lymphocytes; and the effector cells shared the cell surface phenotype of NK cells--they were enriched in populations depleted of T cells by panning with Leu-4 and were depleted of activity by treatment with the anti-NK antibody Leu-11b plus complement. We conclude that human NK cells are capable of recognizing and lysing HSV-1-infected target cells before infectious virus progeny are generated. These results suggest that NK cells, acting early in the course of an infection, might serve to limit HSV-1 replication and therefore reduce the virus load in the host before the development of the adaptive immune response and clearance of the infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2666-2672
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1985
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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