Inhibition of the TRAIL Death Receptor by CMV Reveals Its Importance in NK Cell-Mediated Antiviral Defense
TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) death receptors (DR) regulate apoptosis and inflammation, but their role in antiviral defense is poorly understood. Cytomegaloviruses (CMV) encode many immune-modulatory genes that shape host immunity, and they utilize multiple strategies to target the TNF-family cytokines. Here we show that the m166 open reading frame (orf) of mouse CMV (MCMV) is strictly required to inhibit expression of TRAIL-DR in infected cells. An MCMV mutant lacking m166 expression (m166stop) is severely compromised for replication in vivo, most notably in the liver, and depleting natural killer (NK) cells, or infecting TRAIL-DR−/− mice, restored MCMV-m166stop replication completely. These results highlight the critical importance for CMV to have evolved a strategy to inhibit TRAIL-DR signaling to thwart NK-mediated defenses.