Lower respiratory tract disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is characterized by profound airway mucosa inflammation, both in infants with naturally acquired infection and in experimentally inoculated animal models. Chemokines are central regulatory molecules in inflammatory, immune, and infectious processes of the lung. In this study, we demonstrate that intranasal infection of BALB/c mice with RSV A results in inducible expression of lung chemokines belonging to the CXC (MIP-2 and IP-10), CC (RANTES, eotaxin, MIP-1β, MIP-1α, MCP-1, TCA-3) and C (lymphotactin) families. Chemokine mRNA expression occurred as early as 24 h following inoculation and persisted for at least 5 days in mice inoculated with the highest dose of virus (107 PFU). In general, levels of chemokine mRNA and protein were dependent on the dose of RSV inoculum and paralleled the intensity of lung cellular inflammation. Immunohisthochemical studies indicated that RSV-induced expression of MIP-1α, one of the most abundantly expressed chemokines, was primarily localized in epithelial cells of the alveoli and bronchioles, as well as in adjoining capillary endothelium. Genetically altered mice with a selective deletion of the MIP-1α gene (-/- mice) demonstrated a significant reduction in lung inflammation following RSV infection, compared to control littermates (+/+ mice). Despite the paucity of infiltrating cells, the peak RSV titer in the lung of -/- mice was not significantly different from that observed in +/+ mice. These results provide the first direct evidence that RSV infection may induce lung inflammation via the early production of inflammatory chemokines.
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