Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Fengwei Bai, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences


West Nile virus (WNV), a positive sense single stranded RNA flavivirus, is prevalent in many countries worldwide and is a growing threat in the United States. Some patients infected with WNV develop severe neuroinvasive disease including meningitis or encephalitis which may lead to death. The recently characterized cytokine interleukin-17 (IL-17) has been implicated in several autoimmune diseases, neuroinflammatory conditions, and immune responses to various microbial infections. Previous research has indicated that a known contributor to IL-17 production, interleukin-23, is produced in response to WNV infection, but the role of IL-17 during WNV infection has not been studied before. This study found that WNV infected IL-17 deficient (IL-17-/-) mice developed higher viral loads in the blood and brain compared to wild-type (WT) control mice and were susceptible to severe WNV infection (IL-17-/- 20% survival; WT 60% survival). Interestingly, CD8+ T cells isolated from IL-17-/- mice infected with WNV showed reduced cytotoxicity compared to WT CD8+ T cells. These results suggest that IL-17 plays a protective role during WNV infection by contributing to the cytotoxicity of CD8+ T cells. CD8+ T cells have previously been shown to play a protective role during WNV infection, but little is known about the activation CD8+ T cells or their recruitment to WNV infected cells. Further studies are warranted to elucidate the mechanism by which IL-17 signaling regulates CD8+T cell responses during WNV infection.


Honors College Award: Top Thesis

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