Activation of antiviral protein kinase leads to immunoglobulin E class switching in human B cells

Kelly J. Rager, Jeffrey Langland, Bertram Jacobs, David Proud, David G. Marsh, Farhad Imani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


An epidemiologic association between viral infections and the onset of asthma and allergy has been documented. Also, evidence from animal and human studies has suggested an increase in antigen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) production during viral infections, and elevated levels of IgE are characteristic of human asthma and allergy. Here, we provide molecular evidence for the roles of viral infection and of activation of the antiviral protein kinase (PKR) (double-stranded-RNA [dsRNA]-activated protein kinase) in the induction of IgE class switching. The presence of dsRNA, a known component of vital infection and an activator of PKR, induced IgE class switching as detected by the expression of germ line ε in the human Ramos B- cell line. Furthermore, dsRNA treatment of Ramos cells resulted in the activation of PKR and in vivo activation of the NF-κB complex. Interestingly, infection of Ramos cells with rhinovirus (common cold virus) serotypes 14 and 16 resulted in the induction of germ line ε expression. To further evaluate the role of PKR in the viral induction of IgE class switching, we infected Ramos cells with two different vaccinia virus (cowpox virus) strains. Infection with wild-type vaccinia virus failed to induce germ line e expression; however, a deletion mutant of vaccinia virus (VP1080) lacking the PKR-inhibitory polypeptide E3L induced the expression of germ line ε. Collectively, the results of our study define a common molecular mechanism underlying the role of viral infections in IgE class switching and subsequent induction of IgE-mediated disorders such as allergy and asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1171-1176
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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