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J Immunol. 2003 Nov 15;171(10):5430-6.

Differential induction of TGF-beta regulates proinflammatory cytokine production and determines the outcome of lethal and nonlethal Plasmodium yoelii infections.

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  • 1Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


Transforming growth factor-beta is an essential moderator of malaria-induced inflammation in mice. In this study, we show that the virulence of malaria infections is dependent upon the cellular source of TGF-beta and the timing of its production. C57BL/6 mice infected with a nonlethal (Py17X) strain of Plasmodium yoelii produce TGF-beta from 5 days postinfection; this correlates with resolution of parasitemia, down-regulation of TNF-alpha, and full recovery. In contrast, infection with the lethal strain Py17XL induces high levels of circulating TGF-beta within 24 h; this is associated with delayed and blunted IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha responses, failure to clear parasites, and 100% mortality. Neutralization of early TGF-beta in Py17XL infection leads to a compensatory increase in IL-10 production, while simultaneous neutralization of TGF-beta and IL-10R signaling leads to up-regulation of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma, prolonged survival in all, and ultimate resolution of infection in 40% of Py17XL-infected animals. TGF-beta production can be induced in an Ag-specific manner from splenocytes of infected mice, and by cross-linking surface CTLA-4. CD25(+) and CD8(+) cells are the primary source of TGF-beta following Py17X stimulation of splenocytes, whereas Py17XL induces significant production of TGF-beta from adherent cells. In mice immunized against Py17XL, the early TGF-beta response is inhibited and is accompanied by significant up-regulation of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha and rapid resolution of challenge infections.

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