CD8 T cells and STAT1 signaling are essential codeterminants in protection from polyomavirus encephalopathy

Taryn E. Mockus, Colleen S. Netherby-Winslow, Hannah M. Atkins, Matthew D. Lauver, Ge Jin, Heather M. Ren, Aron E. Lukacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


JC polyomavirus (JCPyV), a human-specific virus, causes the aggressive brain-demyelinating disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in individuals with depressed immune status. The increasing incidence of PML in patients receiving immunotherapeutic and chemotherapeutic agents creates a pressing clinical need to define biomarkers to stratify PML risk and develop anti-JCPyV interventions. Mouse polyomavirus (MuPyV) CNS infection causes encephalopathology and may provide insight into JCPyV-PML pathogenesis. Type I, II, and III interferons (IFNs), which all signal via the STAT1 transcription factor, mediate innate and adaptive immune defense against a variety of viral infections. We previously reported that type I and II IFNs control MuPyV infection in non-central nervous system (CNS) organs, but their relative contributions to MuPyV control in the brain remain unknown. To this end, mice deficient in type I, II, or III IFN receptors or STAT1 were infected intracerebrally with MuPyV. We found that STAT1, but not type I, II, or III IFNs, mediated viral control during acute and persistent MuPyV encephalitis. Mice deficient in STAT1 also developed severe hydrocephalus, blood-brain barrier permeability, and increased brain infiltration by myeloid cells. CD8 T cell deficiency alone did not increase MuPyV infection and pathology in the brain. In the absence of STAT1 signaling, however, depletion of CD8 T cells resulted in lytic infection of the choroid plexus and ependymal lining, marked meningitis, and 100% mortality within 2 weeks postinfection. Collectively, these findings indicate that STAT1 signaling and CD8 T cells cocontribute to controlling MuPyV infection in the brain and CNS injury. IMPORTANCE A comprehensive understanding of JCPyV-induced PML pathogenesis is needed to define determinants that predispose patients to PML, a goal whose urgency is heightened by the lack of anti-JCPyV agents. A handicap to achieving this goal is the lack of a tractable animal model to study PML pathogenesis. Using intracerebral inoculation with MuPyV, we found that MuPyV encephalitis in wild-type mice causes an encephalopathy, which is markedly exacerbated in mice deficient in STAT1, a molecule involved in transducing signals from type I, II, and III IFN receptors. CD8 T cell deficiency compounded the severity of MuPyV neuropathology and resulted in dramatically elevated virus levels in the CNS. These findings demonstrate that STAT1 signaling and CD8 T cells concomitantly act to mitigate MuPyV-encephalopathy and control viral infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02038-19
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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