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J Exp Med. 2000 Jul 3;192(1):117-22.

Interferon gamma eliminates responding CD4 T cells during mycobacterial infection by inducing apoptosis of activated CD4 T cells.

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  • 1Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, New York 12983, USA.


In Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG)-infected wild-type mice, there was a large expansion of an activated (CD44(hi)) splenic CD4 T cell population followed by a rapid contraction of this population to normal numbers. Contraction of the activated CD4 T cell population in wild-type mice was associated with increased apoptosis of activated CD4 T cells. In BCG-infected interferon (IFN)-gamma knockout (KO) mice, the activated CD4 T cell population did not undergo apoptosis. These mice accumulated large numbers of CD4(+)CD44(hi) T cells that were responsive to mycobacterial antigens. Addition of IFN-gamma to cultured splenocytes from BCG-infected IFN-gamma KO mice induced apoptosis of activated CD4 T cells. IFN-gamma-mediated apoptosis was abolished by depleting adherent cells or Mac-1(+) spleen cells or by inhibiting nitric oxide synthase. Thus, IFN-gamma is essential to a regulatory mechanism that eliminates activated CD4 T cells and maintains CD4 T cell homeostasis during an immune response.

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