BALB/c mice infected with the Moscow strain of Ectromelia virus (ECTV-MOS) show a large number of apoptotic cells, and an influx of lymphoid cells in the epithelium and substantia propria of conjunctivae, respectively. The presence of ECTV-MOS antigens in the epithelium of conjunctivae significantly upregulates Fas in the epithelial layer and FasL in the suprabasal layer of conjunctiva. Inhibition of FasL with blocking antibodies in cultures of conjunctival cells isolated from ECTV-MOS-infected BALB/c mice showed that the Fas/FasL pathway is important in apoptosis of ECTV-MOS-infected cells. The results also showed that the presence of cytokines, in particular interferon (IFN)-γ, upregulated expression of Fas. Interleukin (IL) 2, 4, 10 and IFN-γ were produced at the peak of conjunctivitis (at day 15 of infection) with a predominance of IFN-γ and a small, but significant, production of IL4 and IL10 compared with non-infected animals. These results suggest that not only is Fas/FasL expression in conjunctiva involved in elimination of migrating Fas+ cells but also plays an important role in the turnover of conjunctival epithelium and thus may be crucial for ECTV spreading to the surrounding environment.
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