CTL and NK cells cultured in vitro have been shown to contain a cytolytic pore-forming protein (PFP/perforin/cytolysin). To date, it has not been determined whether perforin is expressed by CTL that have been primed in vivo. Here, we have infected mice with two strains of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), one of which mainly produces choriomeningitis and, the other, hepatitis. Brain and liver cryostat sections obtained from LCMV-infected mice were stained for various lymphocyte markers, including perforin. We were able to detect a large accumulation of perforin antigen in CD8+/Thy-1+/asialo GM1+/CD4- lymphocytes, which in fact represent the main infiltrating cell type found in brain and liver sections obtained during the late acute stage of LCMV infection. Perforin was also detected in a smaller population of CD8-/asialo GM1+/NK 1.1+/F480- cells, presumably corresponding to NK cells. Perforin-positive cells were found to have the morphology of blasts or large granular lymphocytes (LGL). These observations, together with in vitro studies performed in the past, indicate that perforin may be associated exclusively with LGL-like CTL blasts and NK cells. Our results demonstrate for the first time the presence of perforin in CTL that have been primed in vivo and suggest that perforin-positive CTL may be directly involved in producing the immunopathology associated with the LCMV infection.

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