Host genes that regulate systemic inflammation upon chronic viral infection are incompletely understood. Murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68) infection is characterized by latency in macrophages, and reactivation is inhibited by interferon-γ (IFN-γ). Using a lysozyme-M-cre (LysMcre) expression system, we show that deletion of autophagy-related (Atg) genes Fip200, beclin 1, Atg14, Atg16l1, Atg7, Atg3, and Atg5, in the myeloid compartment, inhibited MHV68 reactivation in macrophages. Atg5 deficiency did not alter reactivation from B cells, and effects on reactivation from macrophages were not explained by alterations in productive viral replication or the establishment of latency. Rather, chronic MHV68 infection triggered increased systemic inflammation, increased T cell production of IFN-γ, and an IFN-γ-induced transcriptional signature in macrophages from Atg gene-deficient mice. The Atg5-related reactivation defect was partially reversed by neutralization of IFN-γ. Thus Atg genes in myeloid cells dampen virus-induced systemic inflammation, creating an environment that fosters efficient MHV68 reactivation from latency.
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