Transkingdom control of viral infection and immunity in the mammalian intestine

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Science  15 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6270, aad5872
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5872

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  • RE: Retroviruses as masters of transkingdom control
    • Walter H. Gunzburg, Professor of Virology, Institute of Virology, Department of Pathobiology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinaerplatz 1, A-1210 Vienna, Austria
    • Other Contributors:
      • Brian Salmons, CEO, Austrianova, 3 Biopolis Drive, #05-19 Synapse, Biopolis, Singapore 138623

    We read with interest the review by Pfeiffer and Virgin on transkingdom control of viral infection and immunity in the mammalian intestine (1). This review singles out the retrovirus, mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) as a virus requiring intestinal commensal bacteria, and specifically bacterially derived lipopolysaccharide (LPS), for efficient transmission. It is interesting to note that LPS also facilitates infection of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) possibly by disrupting intestinal integrity (2).
    Indeed, retroviruses in general, and MMTV in particular, are particularly adept at co-opting both intestinal microbiota, and the host immune system, by other nonLPS mediated mechanisms as well. MMTV has long been known to encode a superantigen (SAg) that is essential for virus transmission, providing an example of a virus independently evolving a bacterial like mechanism to subvert the host’s immune system in the gastric tract. Bacterial SAgs are antigens that stimulate whole classes of T-cells leading to proinflammatory cytokine production and potentially toxic shock. The MMTV SAg is functionally, though not structurally, similar to those encoded by certain bacterial strains and much more subtle in its effects. MMTV infected B cells express and present SAg to whole T-cell classes, stimulating production of growth stimulatory cytokines that amplify the pool of virus infected B cells (3).

    SAgs may also be involved in the transmission of other retroviruses. Even...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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