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Infect Immun. 2004 Oct;72(10):5597-604.

Humoral immunity through immunoglobulin M protects mice from an experimental actinomycetoma infection by Nocardia brasiliensis.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital, Monterrey Nuevo León, México.


An experimental model of infection with Nocardia brasiliensis, used as an example of a facultative intracellular pathogen, was tested. N. brasiliensis was injected into the rear foot pads of BALB/c mice to establish an infection. Within 30 days, infected animals developed a chronic actinomycetoma infection. Batch cultures of N. brasiliensis were used to purify P61, P38, and P24 antigens; P61 is a catalase, and P38 is a protease with strong caseinolytic activity. Active and passive immunizations of BALB/c mice with these three purified soluble antigens were studied. Protection was demonstrated for actively immunized mice. However, immunity lasted only 30 days. Other groups of immunized mice were bled at different times, and their sera were passively transferred to naive recipients that were then infected with N. brasiliensis. Sera collected 5, 6, and 7 days after donor immunization conferred complete, long-lasting protection. The protective effect of passive immunity decreased when sera were collected 2 weeks after donor immunization. However, neither the early sera (1-, 2-, and 3-day sera) nor the later sera (30- or 45-day sera) prevented the infection. Hyperimmune sera with the highest levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) to N. brasiliensis antigens did not protect at all. The antigens tested induced two IgM peaks. The first peak was present 3 days after immunization but was not antigen specific and did not transfer protection. The second peak was evident 7 days after immunization, was an IgM response, was antigen specific, and conferred protection. This results clearly demonstrate that IgM antibodies protect the host against a facultative intracellular bacterium.

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