T lymphocytes play a primary role in recovery from viral infections and in antiviral immunity. Although viral-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells have been shown to be able to lyse virally infected targets in vitro and promote recovery from lethal infection in vivo, the role of CD4+ T lymphocytes and their mechanism(s) of action in viral immunity are not well understood. The ability to further dissect the role that CD4+ T cells play in the immune response to a number of pathogens has been greatly enhanced by evidence for more extensive heterogeneity among the CD4+ T lymphocytes. To further examine the role of CD4+ T cells in the immune response to influenza infection, we have generated influenza virus-specific CD4+ T cell clones from influenza-primed BALB/c mice with differential cytokine secretion profiles that are defined as T helper type 1 (Th1) clones by the production of interleukin 2 (IL-2) and interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), or as Th2 clones by the production of IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10. Our studies have revealed that Th1 clones are cytolytic in vitro and protective against lethal challenge with virus in vivo, whereas Th2 clones are noncytolytic and not protective. Upon further evaluation of these clonal populations we have shown that not only are the Th2 clones nonprotective, but that pulmonary pathology is exacerbated as compared with control mice as evidenced by delayed viral clearance and massive pulmonary eosinophilia. These data suggest that virus-specific CD4+ T cells of the Th2 subset may not play a primary role in virus clearance and recovery and may lead to immune mediated potentiation of injury.

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