Surface expression of the hRSV nucleoprotein impairs immunological synapse formation with T cells

Abstract : Human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in young children worldwide. The recurrent hRSV outbreaks and reinfections are the cause of a significant public health burden and associate with an inefficient antiviral immunity, even after disease resolution. Although several mouse-and human cell-based studies have shown that hRSV infection prevents naïve T-cell activation by antigen-presenting cells, the mechanism underlying such inhibition remains unknown. Here, we show that the hRSV nucleoprotein (N) could be at least partially responsible for inhibiting T-cell activation during infection by this virus. Early after infection, the N protein was expressed on the surface of epithelial and dendritic cells, after interacting with trans-Golgi and lysosomal compartments. Further, experiments on supported lipid bilayers loaded with peptide-MHC (pMHC) complexes showed that surface anchored N protein prevented immunological synapse assembly by naive CD4 + T cells and, to a lesser extent, by antigen-experienced T-cell blasts. Synapse assembly inhibition was in part due to reduced T-cell receptor (TCR) signaling and pMHC clustering at the T-cell− bilayer interface, suggesting that N protein interferes with pMHC− TCR interactions. Moreover, N protein colocalized with the TCR independently of pMHC, consistent with a possible interaction with TCR complex components. Based on these data, we conclude that hRSV N protein expression at the surface of infected cells inhibits T-cell activation. Our study defines this protein as a major virulence factor that contributes to impairing acquired immunity and enhances susceptibility to reinfection by hRSV.
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Pablo Céspedes, Susan Bueno, Bruno Ramirez, Roberto Gomez, Sebastián Riquelme, et al.. Surface expression of the hRSV nucleoprotein impairs immunological synapse formation with T cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , National Academy of Sciences, 2014, 111 (31), pp.E3214-E3223. ⟨10.1073/pnas.1400760111⟩. ⟨inserm-02164397⟩

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