Chronic viral infections are often established by the exploitation of immune-regulatory mechanisms that result in nonfunctional T cell responses. Viruses that establish persistent infections remain a serious threat to human health. Sphingosine kinase 2 (SphK2) generates sphingosine 1-phosphate, which is a molecule known to regulate multiple cellular processes. However, little is known about SphK2’s role during the host immune responses to viral infection. Here, we demonstrate that SphK2 functions during lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus Cl 13 (LCMV Cl 13) infection to limit T cell immune pathology, which subsequently aids in the establishment of virus-induced immunosuppression and the resultant viral persistence. The infection of Sphk2-deficient (Sphk2–/–) mice with LCMV Cl 13 led to the development of nephropathy and mortality via T cell–mediated immunopathology. Following LCMV infection, Sphk2–/– CD4+ T cells displayed increased activity and proliferation, and these cells promoted overactive LCMV Cl 13–specific CD8+ T cell responses. Notably, oral instillation of an SphK2-selective inhibitor promoted protective T cell responses and accelerated the termination of LCMV Cl 13 persistence in mice. Thus, SphK2 is indicated as an immunotherapeutic target for the control of persistent viral infections.
Caleb J. Studstill, Curtis J. Pritzl, Young-Jin Seo, Dae Young Kim, Chuan Xia, Jennifer J. Wolf, Ravi Nistala, Madhuvanthi Vijayan, Yong-Bin Cho, Kyung Won Kang, Sang-Myeong Lee, Bumsuk Hahm