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J Immunol. 2000 Jul 15;165(2):896-902.

IL-12 is required to maintain a Th1 response during Leishmania major infection.

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  • 1Department of Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


IL-12 initiates Th1 cell development and cell-mediated immunity, but whether IL-12 contributes to the maintenance of a Th1 response is unclear. To address this question, we infected IL-12 p40-/- C57BL/6 mice with Leishmania major, an intracellular protozoan parasite controlled by a cell-mediated immune response, and simultaneously administered IL-12. Whereas untreated p40-/- mice developed an uncontrolled infection, p40-/- mice treated with IL-12 for the first 2 or 4 wk of infection developed a Th1 response and resolved their lesions. However, the induction of this protective Th1 cell response by IL-12 treatment was not associated with long term immunity. We observed that on rechallenge in the absence of IL-12, the mice exhibited a susceptible phenotype. In addition, without rechallenge, lesions in the IL-12-treated p40-/- mice developed several weeks after cessation of IL-12 treatment. In both cases, disease was associated with the loss of a Th1 response and the development of a Th2 response. Our observations are not limited to the C57BL/6 strain, because IL-12 treatment was also unable to provide lasting protection to p40-/- BALB/c mice. Finally, we found that although Th1 cells from healed wild-type C57BL/6 mice adoptively transferred protection to L. major-infected RAG-/- mice, they were unable to protect p40-/- mice. In conclusion, these studies provide the first demonstration that IL-12 is required not only to initiate Th1 cell development but also throughout infection to maintain a Th1 cell response and resistance to L. major.

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