Viruses exploit a number of strategies to evade immune recognition. In this study, we describe a novel mechanism by which EBV, rather than avoiding detection, subverts the immune response by stimulating regulatory T cells that secrete IL-10. Human PBMC from all EBV-seropositive, but not -seronegative, donors responded to both purified latent membrane protein 1 and the corresponding immunodominant peptides with high levels of IL-10 secretion by CD4+ T cells. These IL-10 responses, characteristic of T regulatory 1 cells, inhibited T cell proliferation and IFN-γ secretion induced by both mitogen and recall Ag. It was confirmed that the inhibition was IL-10 dependent by the use of neutralizing Ab. The deviation of the immune response toward suppression is likely to be important in maintaining latency and EBV-associated tumors.
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