Primary brain cell cultures prepared from newborn mice were infected with Semliki Forest virus (SFV). The effects of interferon (IFN-αβ) treatment on SFV replication, SFV and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen expression, and susceptibility to lysis by SFV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) were determined. The IFN-αβ treatment prevented replication of SFV as determined by incorporation of [H]uridine into SFV RNA and very markedly reduced the expression of SFV antigens on the cell surface as determined by lysis with antibody and complement or indirect immunofluorescence. However, IFN-αβ increased expression of MHC class I antigens, measured by indirect immunofluorescence and as assessed indirectly by susceptibility to killing by alloreactive T cell lines. SFV infection had no effect on MHC class I expression in either IFN-αβ-treated or -untreated cells. The infected IFN-αβ-untreated brain cells were susceptible to killing by the CTL at effector/target ratios in the range 3 to 30. The killing was MHC antigen-restricted, and uninfected cells were not killed. A target cell (YAC) highly susceptible to natural killer cell cytotoxicity was not killed by the CTL. IFN-αβ treatment prior to SFV infection resulted in an augmentation of lysis by the CTL, indicating that even where SFV antigen expression is reduced, in the context of enhanced MHC class I expression brain cells remain susceptible to CTL killing.


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