Cytokines are small proteins produced by T lymphocytes that mediate immune responses. Those produced by the CD4+ Th1 subset induce cell-mediated immunity, whereas those produced by the CD4+ Th2 subset are more efficient at stimulating immunoglobulin production. The goal of cytokine immunotherapy is prevention or reduction of disease progression through stimulation of cell-mediated immunity (i.e., immune reconstitution) by administration of an exogenous Th1 cytokine such as interleukin-2 (IL-2). Cytokine immunotherapy has its origins in cancer immunobiology where IL-2 has been used successfully to manage several human cancers (metastatic melanoma, acute myelogenous leukemia, and metastatic renal cell carcinoma). More recent work has demonstrated cytokine immunotherapy to be effective at improving immune responses in patients with HIV-1 disease. To explore cytokine immunotherapy for sight-threatening AIDSrelated human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) retinitis, we developed a mouse model of experimental murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) retinitis that employs mice with MAIDS, a retrovirus-induced immunodeficiency syndrome. Systemic cytokine immunotherapy with IL-2, but not with interleukin-12 (IL-12), provides absolute protection against MAIDS-related MCMV retinitis by stimulation of the perforin-mediated pathway of cytotoxicity used by natural killer cells and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells to kill virus-infected cells. Our findings warrant additional studies on the use of cytokine immunotherapy for management of HCMV retinitis (and possibly other opportunistic infections) during HIV-1-induced immunodeficiency. We envision systemic cytokine immunotherapy as an altemative or adjunct to traditional antiviral chemotherapy for optimal management of AIDS-related HCMV retinitis.
Keywords: cytokine immunotherapy, interleukin-2, interleukin-12, cytomegalovirus retinitis, aids, maids
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