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PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4280. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004280. Epub 2009 Jan 26.

Inefficient Toll-like receptor-4 stimulation enables Bordetella parapertussis to avoid host immunity.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


The recognition of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) by host Toll-like receptor (TLR)4 is a crucial step in developing protective immunity against several gram negative bacterial pathogens. Bordetella bronchiseptica and B. pertussis stimulate robust TLR4 responses that are required to control the infection, but a close relative, B. parapertussis, poorly stimulates this receptor, and TLR4 deficiency does not affect its course of infection. This led us to hypothesize that inefficient TLR4 stimulation enables B. parapertussis to evade host immunity. In a mouse model of infection, B. parapertussis grew rapidly in the lungs, but no measurable increase in TLR4-mediated cytokine, chemokine, or leukocyte responses were observed over the first few days of infection. Delivery of a TLR4 stimulant in the inoculum resulted in a robust inflammatory response and a 10- to 100-fold reduction of B. parapertussis numbers. As we have previously shown, B. parapertussis grows efficiently during the first week of infection even in animals passively immunized with antibodies. We show that this evasion of antibody-mediated clearance is dependent on the lack of TLR4 stimulation by B. parapertussis as co-inoculation with a TLR4 agonist resulted in 10,000-fold lower B. parapertussis numbers on day 3 in antibody-treated wild type, but not TLR4-deficient, mice. Together, these results indicate that inefficient TLR4 stimulation by B. parapertussis enables it to avoid host immunity and grow to high numbers in the respiratory tract of naïve and immunized hosts.

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