Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) induce rapid, extensive internal disintegration in target cells and this is unique among immune lytic mechanisms studied. This raises the question of whether CTLs are uniquely capable of halting virus infections by inducing damage within the target cell causing inactivation of intracellular virus. Reovirus infection of mouse P815 cells provided a suitable system for evaluating this question. An increase in cell-associated infectious virions began 8 h after infection and increased until 20 h post-infection, at which time the titre levelled off at about 100- to 1000-fold higher than the initial value. The infectious activity was compared between host cells killed by CTLs and those killed by sonication at various points in the infection cycle. The presence of reovirus within the target cell did not inhibit the usual internal disintegration events associated with the death of a target killed by CTLs. Nevertheless, the results indicated that CTLs were incapable of inactivating intracellular reovirus at any point in the life cycle of the virus: CTL-induced cytolysis simply released the infectious virions into the medium. Thus, at least in the case of reovirus, the utility of direct killing by CTLs would appear to be limited to reduction of the virus yield by lysis of the host cell before virus replication and assembly is completed.

Keyword(s): CTLs , host cell death and reovirus

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