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CMV remains an important opportunistic pathogen in solid organ and hematopoietic cell transplantation, particularly in lung transplant recipients (LTRs). LTRs mismatched for CMV (donor(+)/recipient(-); D(+)R(-)) are at high risk for active CMV infection and increased mortality; however, the immune correlates of viral control remain incompletely understood. We prospectively studied 27 D(+)R(-) LTRs during primary CMV infection to determine whether acute CD4(+) T cell parameters differentiated the capacity for viral control during early chronic infection. Unexpectedly, the T-box transcription factor, T-bet, was expressed at low levels in CD4(+) compared with CD8(+) T cells during acute primary infection. However, the capacity for in vitro CMV phosphoprotein 65-specific proliferation and CD4(+)T-bet(+) induction differentiated LTR controllers from early viremic relapsers, correlating with granzyme B loading and effector multifunction. Furthermore, impaired CMV-specific proliferative responses from relapsers, along with T-bet, and effector function could be significantly rescued, most effectively with phosphoprotein 65 Ag and combined exogenous IL-2 and IL-12. Acute CD4(+) T cell CMV-specific proliferative and effector responses were highly IL-12-dependent in blocking studies. In addition, we generated monocyte-derived dendritic cells using PBMC obtained during primary infection from relapsers and observed impaired monocyte-derived dendritic cell differentiation, a reduced capacity for IL-12 production, but increased IL-10 production compared with controls, suggesting an APC defect during acute CMV viremia. Taken together, these data show an important role for CMV-specific CD4(+) effector responses in differentiating the capacity of high-risk LTRs to establish durable immune control during early chronic infection and provide evidence for IL-12 as a key factor driving these responses.
Copyright © 2016 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.