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Rhinoviruses Exposed

Some of these insidious viruses expertly subvert the host immune system, allowing their unhindered proliferation.

By | February 1, 2013

RHINOVIRUSES AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Rhinoviruses infect the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract. The viruses can be grouped according to the epithelial cell receptors to which they bind. Major-group viruses bind to the cell surface receptor ICAM-1 for entry (1); minor-group viruses bind to the unrelated low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor (2). This receptor difference turns out to be a key factor in how these viruses interact with the immune system. Major-group viruses also bind the ICAM-1 molecule expressed on macrophages, dendritic cells, and other immune cells (3). This attachment triggers a host of changes in the immune cells that effectively dampens the immune response. The immune cells produce anti-inflammatory signals (4); they are slower to activate the T cells in the lymph nodes that attack the viruses (5); and they reduce the production of antibodies and activation of memory B and T cells that protect the host against reinfection (6). Because the minor-group viruses cannot bind the ICAM-1 molecule on immune cells, they do not suppress the immune system.

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