Common virus and autoimmune diseases: a new direct link

APR . 06 2016
Peking University, April 2, 2016: Human cytomegalovirus (CMV), you may have never heard of it, is the most popular virus you may encounter in your life. Around 60%-90% of human population is infected by it; and most of them get along with it without realizing its existence. If you think it is a small potato, think again, for there is growing evidence linking CMV with autoimmune diseases. Although scientists have studied it for a long time, the direct role of CMV in autoimmune disorders remains as little known as its name.
Now Professor Li Zhanguo and Professor Yang Guang are able to tell us more. Their work, published in Cell Host & Microbe on March 9 of 2016, sheds light on how CMV contributes to autoimmune diseases.
The research group identifies an antibody called anti-Pp150. This antibody is very much likely induced by CMV. Anti-Pp150 recognizes CMV, and then gives rise to a stream of immune responses which will eliminate the virus. What the researchers find, however, is that anti-Pp150 also recognizes NK cells, a group of protectors of our body. Coated by anti-Pp150, NK cells will be attacked by our own immune system. This will cause the death of NK cells. The reduction of NK cells is a characteristic in a bunch of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and primary Sjogren’s syndrome (primary SS). Studies have associated loss of NK cells with autoimmune diseases.
  Illustration of CMV infection: a CMV-induced antibody is shared in the patients with autoimmune diseases. This antibody induces the death of NK cells.
From Yu Liu et al.; “A Cytomegalovirus Peptide-Specific Antibody Alters Natural Killer Cell Homeostasis and Is Shared in Several Autoimmune Diseases”, Cell Host & Microbe. 2016, 02, 005. DOI:10.1016/j.chom.2016.02.005.
Li and Yang’s work also has other significances. As Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler, a professor from Karolinska Institutet, says in a commentary article, “this work also opens avenues for studying the link between CMV and cancer”, as “CMV infection is present in 90%-100% of lymphomas, brain tumors, neuroblastomas, sarcomas and breast, colon, and prostate cancers.”
Their work is supported by a grant from the National Basic Research Program of China (2010CB529101).
For the original Cell Host Microbe paper, please click:
Written by: Li Yike
Edited By: Xiao Yunyun
Source: Peking University People’s Hospital
Written By: Li Yike
For Professor Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler’s commentary article, please click: