Human metapneumovirus (hMPV), a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, is a leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections in children, the elderly, and immunocompromised patients. Virus- and host-specific mechanisms of pathogenesis and immune protection are not fully understood. By an intranasal inoculation model, we show that hMPV-infected BALB/c mice developed clinical disease, including airway obstruction and hyperresponsiveness (AHR), along with histopathologic evidence of lung inflammation and viral replication. hMPV infection protected mice against subsequent viral challenge, as demonstrated by undetectable viral titers, lack of body weight loss, and a significant reduction in the level of lung inflammation. No cross-protection with other paramyxoviruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus, was observed. T-lymphocyte depletion studies showed that CD4+ and CD8+ T cells cooperate synergistically in hMPV eradication during primary infection, but CD4+ more than CD8+ T cells also enhanced clinical disease and lung pathology. Concurrent depletion of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells completely blocked airway obstruction as well as AHR. Despite impaired generation of neutralizing anti-hMPV antibodies in the absence of CD4 + T cells, mice had undetectable viral replication after hMPV challenge and were protected from clinical disease, suggesting that protection can be provided by an intact CD8+ T-cell compartment. Whether these findings have implications for naturally acquired human infections remains to be determined.
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