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Vet Res. 2010 Jul-Aug;41(4):47. doi: 10.1051/vetres/2010019. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Interferon-gamma, interleukin-4 and interleukin-10 production by T helper cells reveals intact Th1 and regulatory TR1 cell activation and a delay of the Th2 cell response in equine neonates and foals.

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  • 1Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Cytokines produced by T helper (Th) cells are important in orchestrating the immune response during health and disease. Recent reports indicated that cytokine mRNA expression in foals is often quantitatively lower than that of adult horses suggesting that foal T cells are not fully mature. Here, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from foals and adult horses were stimulated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and analyzed for intracellular interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-10 production, representing the Th1, Th2 and regulatory TR1 cell phenotypes respectively, by flow cytometry. In agreement with previous reports, all three cytokines were quantitatively reduced in foals compared to adults. However, the balance between Th1 and Th2 cytokines (IFN-gamma/IL-4 ratio) showed a clear Th1-biased response in foals by 6 and 12 weeks of life, while similar IFN-gamma/IL-10 ratios were found in foals and adult horses. By day 5 after birth, intracellular IFN-gamma production by foal CD4+ and CD8+ T cells resembled that in adults. Overall, IL-4 production was low in foals. IL-4+ cells peaked at day 5 of age when IL-4 was mainly produced by IgE+ cells. Relative percentages of IL-4+ Th2 cells were significantly lower in foals at all time points. The data suggested that equine neonates and young foals have an impaired Th2 response, that the immune response of foals is Th1 biased, that IFN-gamma production by Th and cytotoxic T cells is qualitatively similar to adult horses, and regulatory IL-10 production by T cells is developmentally mature in foals during the first three months of life.

Copyright (c) INRA, EDP Sciences, 2010.

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