Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Dr. Beth A. Garvy


Neonates are more susceptible to influenza virus infection than adults, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality as well as delayed clearance of the virus. Efforts to improve influenza infection outcomes in neonates typically center on prevention, although current vaccines fall short of complete protection and can only be administered in humans after 6 months of life. We propose that as the neonatal immune system responds differently than the adult immune system, interventions that are efficacious or tolerable in adults cannot be guaranteed to perform the same in neonates. T cell vaccines that target conserved influenza virus epitopes have been proposed for conferring protection to multiple influenza virus strains, but if T cell vaccines will be used in infants and adults, neonates must be able to respond to the same T cell antigens as adults. Mouse pups responded to influenza virus peptide PA224-233 but not NP366-374 during influenza virus infection in contrast to the codominant adult response. Mice infected as pups also generated diminished T cell memory compared to mice infected as adults and displayed skewed immunodominance during secondary infection. Adult bone marrow derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) improved viral clearance when loaded with influenza virus and promoted NP366-374-specific CD8+ T cell responses in infected pups. BMDC peptide vaccination could stimulate PA224-233-specific but not NP366-374-specific CD8+ T cell responses in pups, but, PA224-233 vaccination offered no protection to pups during lethal infection. These data suggest that altered immunodominance must be considered when stimulating CD8+ T cell responses in adults and neonates.

Immaturity and active suppression of immune responses are both factors in neonatal vulnerability to disease. Specifically, active suppression of neonatal immunity by regulatory T cells (Tregs) has been proposed as a driving factor in diminished neonatal immunity, but removing these cells can compromise viral defense or increase deleterious inflammation. Mice that lacked Tregs displayed compromised anti-influenza antibody responses and decreased lymph node responses during influenza virus infection. A high proportion of pup Tregs also expressed Gata3. Transgenic pups with a Treg specific Gata3 knockout displayed an increase in Tbet expression in both conventional and regulatory T cells and an increase in IFNγ producing CD4+ T cells in the lungs during infection. These data suggest that Tregs are required for effective humoral responses to influenza virus and that Gata3 expression influences Treg suppressive function in neonates.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)