T-Cell-independent immunoglobulin G responses in vivo are elicited by live-virus infection but not by immunization with viral proteins or virus-like particles.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) responses to viruses are generally assumed to be T-cell dependent (TD). Recently, however, polyomavirus (PyV) infection of T-cell-deficient (T-cell receptor beta chain [TCR-beta] -/- or TCR-betaxdelta -/-) mice was shown to elicit a protective, T-cell-independent (TI) antiviral IgM and IgG response. A repetitive, highly organized antigenic structure common to many TI antigens is postulated to be important in the induction of antibody responses in the absence of helper T cells. To test whether the repetitive structure of viral antigens is essential and/or sufficient for the induction of TI antibodies, we compared the abilities of three forms of PyV antigens to induce IgM and IgG responses in T-cell-deficient mice: soluble capsid antigens (VP1), repetitive virus-like particles (VLPs), and live PyV. Immunization with each of the viral antigens resulted in IgM production. VLPs and PyV elicited 10-fold-higher IgM titers than VP1, indicating that the highly organized, repetitive antigens are more efficient in IgM induction. Antigen-specific TI IgGresponses, however, were detected only in mice infected with live PyV, not in VP1- or VLP-immunized mice. These results suggest that the highly organized, repetitive nature of the viral antigens is insufficient to account for their ability to elicit TI IgG response and that signals generated by live-virus infection may be essential for the switch to IgG production in the absence of T cells. Germinal centers were not observed in T-cell-deficient PyV-infected mice,indicating that the germinal center pathway of B-cell differentiation is TD evenin the context of a virus infection.