Costimulation is required for optimal T cell activation, yet it is unclear whether poxviruses dedicatedly subvert costimulation during infection. Here, we report that the secreted M2 protein encoded by cowpox virus (CPXV) specifically interacts with human and murine B7.1 (CD80) and B7.2 (CD86). We also show that M2 competes with CD28 and CTLA4 for binding to cell surface B7 ligands, with stronger efficacy against CD28. Functionally, recombinant M2 and culture supernatants from wild-type (WT) but not M2-deficient (ΔM2) CPXV-infected cells can potently suppress B7 ligand-mediated T cell proliferation and interleukin-2 (IL-2) production. Furthermore, we observed increased antiviral CD4 and CD8 T cell responses in C57BL/6 mice challenged by ΔM2 CPXV compared with WT virus. These differences in immune responses to ΔM2 and WT CPXV were not observed in CD28-deficient mice. Taken together, our findings define a mechanism of viral sabotage of T cell activation that highlights the role of CD28 costimulation in host defense against poxvirus infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21113-21119
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 15 2019


  • Cowpox virus
  • Immune evasion
  • T cell


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