Natural killer (NK) cells play a critical role in controlling murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) and can mediate both cytokine production and direct cytotoxicity. The NK cell activation receptor, Ly49H, is responsible for genetic resistance to MCMV in C57BL/6 mice. Recognition of the viral m157 protein by Ly49H is sufficient for effective control of MCMV infection. Additionally, during the host response to infection, distinct immune and non-immune cells elaborate a variety of pleiotropic cytokines which have the potential to impact viral pathogenesis, NK cells, and other immune functions, both directly and indirectly. While the effects of various immune deficiencies have been examined for general antiviral phenotypes, their direct effects on Ly49H-dependent MCMV control are poorly understood. To specifically interrogate Ly49H-dependent functions, herein we employed an in vivo viral competition approach to show Ly49H-dependent MCMV control is specifically mediated through cytotoxicity but not IFNγ production. Whereas m157 induced Ly49H-dependent degranulation, efficient cytotoxicity also required either IL-12 or type I interferon (IFN-I) which acted directly on NK cells to produce granzyme B. These studies demonstrate that both of these distinct NK cell-intrinsic mechanisms are integrated for optimal viral control by NK cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1005323
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2015


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