TREM-2 promotes macrophage survival and lung disease after respiratory viral infection

Viral infections and type 2 immune responses are thought to be critical for the development of chronic respiratory disease, but the link between these events needs to be better defined. Here, we study a mouse model in which infection with a mouse parainfluenza virus known as Sendai virus (SeV) leads to long-term activation of innate immune cells that drive IL-13–dependent lung disease. We find that chronic postviral disease (signified by formation of excess airway mucus and accumulation of M2-differentiating lung macrophages) requires macrophage expression of triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2). Analysis of mechanism shows that viral replication increases lung macrophage levels of intracellular and cell surface TREM2, and this action prevents macrophage apoptosis that would otherwise occur during the acute illness (5–12 d after inoculation).
However, the largest increases in TREM2 levels are found as the soluble form (sTREM-2) long after clearance of infection (49 d after inoculation). At this time, IL-13 and the adapter protein DAP12 promote TREM2 cleavage to sTREM2 that is unexpectedly active in preventing macrophage apoptosis. The results thereby define an unprecedented mechanism for a feed-forward expansion of lung macrophages (with IL-13 production and consequent M2 differentiation) that further explains how acute infection leads to chronic inflammatory disease.

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