Transforming growth factor-beta inhibits coxsackievirus-mediated autoimmune myocarditis.

Marc S. Horwitz, University of British Columbia
Maria Knudsen, University of British Columbia
Alex Ilic, Scripps Research Insititute
Cody Fine, Scripps Research Institiute
Nora Sarvetnick, University of Nebraska Medical Center


Clinical myocarditis is a precursor to dilated cardiomyopathy and a principal cause of heart failure. Nearly 30% of all recently diagnosed cases of myocarditis are attributable to infection with coxsackie B virus (CBV), the most frequently associated pathogen. CBV initially replicates in the pancreas and quickly spreads to the heart, inducing chronic autoimmunity. To determine whether immunosuppressive cytokines could act to limit the extent of autoimmunity to the heart, we infected transgenic mice that express immunosuppressive cytokines in the pancreas. Herein, we demonstrate that transgenic expression of transforming growth factor-beta (1) (TGF-beta) within the pancreatic beta cells prevented mice from developing autoimmune myocarditis after CBV infection. In contrast, transgenic expression of interleukin-4 did not inhibit virus-mediated heart disease. Furthermore, we show that TGF-beta expression reduced viral replication while promoting the recruitment of macrophages into the pancreas. These results illustrate the benefit of TGF-beta in controlling not only viral replication, but also CBV-mediated autoimmunity.