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Infect Immun. 2001 Jul;69(7):4232-41.

Helicobacter hepaticus-induced colitis in interleukin-10-deficient mice: cytokine requirements for the induction and maintenance of intestinal inflammation.

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  • 1Immunobiology Section, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0425, USA.


We have previously shown that specific-pathogen-free interleukin-10 (IL-10)-deficient (IL-10 KO) mice reconstituted with Helicobacter hepaticus develop severe colitis associated with a Th1-type cytokine response. In the present study, we formally demonstrate that IL-12 is crucial for disease induction, because mice deficient for both IL-10 and IL-12 p40 show no intestinal pathology following H. hepaticus infection. By using monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to IL-12, gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), we have further analyzed the role of these cytokines in the maintenance of the Th1 response and inflammation in IL-10 KO mice with established H. hepaticus-induced colitis. Treatment of infected colitic IL-10 KO mice with anti-IL-12 p40 resulted in markedly reduced intestinal inflammation, colonic IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNA levels, and H. hepaticus-specific IFN-gamma secretion by mesenteric lymph node (MLN) cells compared to the findings in control MAb-treated mice. Moreover, the diminished pathology was associated with decreased numbers of colonic CD3(+) T cells and significantly reduced frequencies of Helicobacter-reactive CD4(+) Th1 cells in MLN. In contrast, anti-IFN-gamma and/or anti-TNF-alpha had no effect on intestinal inflammation in IL-10 KO mice with established colitis. Using IL-10/IFN-gamma double-deficient mice, we further show that IFN-gamma is not required for the development of colitis following H. hepaticus infection. MLN cells from infected IL-10/IFN-gamma KO animals secreted elevated amounts of IL-12 and TNF-alpha following bacterial antigen stimulation, indicating alternative pathways of disease induction. Taken together, our results demonstrate a crucial role for IL-12 in both inducing and sustaining intestinal inflammation through recruitment and maintenance of a pool of pathogenic Th1 cells.

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