Interleukin-10 (IL-10) suppresses the maturation and cytokine production of dendritic cells (DCs), key regulators of adaptive immunity, and prevents the activation and polarization of naïve T cells towards protective gamma interferon-producing effectors. We hypothesized that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) utilizes its viral IL-10 homolog (cmvIL-10) to attenuate DC functionality, thereby subverting the efficient induction of antiviral immune responses. RNA and protein analyses demonstrated that the cmvIL-10 gene was expressed with late gene kinetics. Treatment of immature DCs (iDCs) with supernatant from HCMV-infected cultures inhibited both the lipopolysaccharide- induced DC maturation and proinflammatory cytoldne production. These inhibitory effects were specifically mediated through the IL-10 receptor and were not observed when DCs were treated with supernatant of cells infected with a cmvIL-10-knockout mutant. Incubation of iDCs with recombinant cmvIL-10 recapitulated the inhibition of maturation. Furthermore, cmvIL-10 had pronounced long-term effects on those DCs that could overcome this inhibition of maturation. It enhanced the migration of mature DCs (mDCs) towards the lymph node homing chemoldne but greatly reduced their cytokine production. The inability of mDCs to secrete IL-12 was maintained, even when they were restimulated by the activated T-cell signal CD40 ligand in the absence of cmvIL-10. Importantly, cmvIL-10 potentiates these anti-inflammatory effects, at least partially, by inducing endogenous cellular IL-10 expression in DCs. Collectively, we show that cmvIL-10 causes long-term functional alterations at all stages of DC activation.
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