PerspectiveImmunology

Slowing blood flow to fight viral infection

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Science  08 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6427, pp. 585-586
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw3618

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Summary

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes are the assassins of the immune system, delivering cell death through direct interactions with virally infected or cancerous cells. To successfully execute their mission, these CD8+ T cells must navigate a number of key steps, including sensing and entering infected tissues, locating infected cells in the vast tissue space, and supplying the precise mediators or interactions needed to elicit target cell death. Failure, or viral interference, at any of these steps can have devastating consequences for the host, including the establishment of viral persistence. Although some of the pathways and mechanisms involved in T cell purging of viral infection are well understood, the rate of local blood flow in the infected tissue has not been carefully explored as a factor mediating viral clearance. On page 639 of this issue, Cox et al. (1) demonstrate that T cells express the prototypical neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh), which dilates blood vessels, slowing blood flow enough to enhance T cell entry into infected tissues and ultimately allowing clearance of chronic viral infection.