Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a major cause of upper and lower respiratory-tract infection in infants, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals. Virus-directed cellular immunity elicited by hMPV infection is poorly understood, in contrast to the phylogenetically and clinically related pathogen human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV). In a murine model of acute lower respiratory-tract infection with hMPV, we demonstrate the accumulation of gamma interferon (IFN-)-producing CD8 T cells in the airways and lungs at day 7 post-infection (p.i.), associated with cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) directed to an epitope of the M2-1 protein. This CTL immunity was accompanied by increased pulmonary expression of Th1 cytokines IFN- and interleukin (IL)-12 and antiviral cytokines (IFN-), as well as chemokines Mip-1, Mip-1, Mig, IP-10 and CX3CL1. There was also a moderate increase in Th2-type cytokines IL-4 and IL-10 compared with uninfected mice. At 21 days p.i., a strong CTL response could be recalled from the spleen. A similar pattern of CTL induction to the homologous M2-1 CTL epitope of hRSV, and of cytokine/chemokine induction, was observed following infection with hRSV, highlighting similarities in the cellular immune response to the two related pathogens.


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