Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are killer cells that are crucial in the control of viral pathogens and cancers. They can become exhausted during chronic viral infection, a phenomenon that consists of a reduction in both number and functionality of CTLs. Recently, Barber and colleagues demonstrated that B7-H1 (also called PD-L1), a cell-surface molecule that is widely distributed in tissues, was necessary for the maintenance of T-cell exhaustion in a chronic-infection mouse model of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). PD-1, the receptor of B7-H1, was greatly upregulated on CTLs in response to LCMV, and its expression was maintained during chronic infection. Blockade of the B7-H1-PD-1 pathway by a monoclonal antibody restored CTL function and reduced viral burden. These results suggest a new strategy for the treatment of chronic viral infection.
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