Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) is an avian lymphotropic virus that causes immunosuppression. When specific-pathogen-free chickens were exposed to a pathogenic strain of IBDV (IM), the virus rapidly destroyed B cells in the bursa of Fabricius. Extensive viral replication was accompanied by an infiltration of T cells in the bursa. We studied the characteristics of intrabursal T lymphocytes in IBDV-infected chickens and examined whether T cells were involved in virus clearance. Flow cytometric analysis of single-cell suspensions of the bursal tissue revealed that T cells were first detectable at 4 days postinoculation (p.i.). At 7 days p.i., 65% of bursal cells were T cells and 7% were B cells. After virus infection, the numbers of bursal T cells expressing activation markers Ia and CD25 were significantly increased (P <lt> 0.03). In addition, IBDV-induced bursal T cells produced elevated levels of interleukin-6-like factor and nitric oxide-inducing factor in vitro. Spleen and bursal cells of IBDV-infected chickens had upregulated gamma interferon gene expression in comparison with virus-free chickens. In IBDV-infected chickens, bursal T cells proliferated in vitro upon stimulation with purified IBDV in a dose-dependent manner (P <lt> 0.02), whereas virus-specific T-cell expansion was not detected in the spleen. Cyclosporin A treatment, which reduced the number of circulating T cells and compromised T-cell mitogenesis, increased viral burden in the bursae of IBDV-infected chickens. The results suggest that intrabursal T cells and T-cell-mediated responses may be important in viral clearance and promoting recovery from infection.
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