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Infect Immun. 2010 Dec;78(12):5287-94. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00431-10. Epub 2010 Sep 20.

Inhibition of T cells provides protection against early invasive pneumococcal disease.

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  • 1Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae are major causes of morbidity and mortality, which are in part mediated by immune cell-dependent mechanisms. Yet, the specific contributions of individual cell types to immunopathology are only partially understood. T cells are well characterized with respect to their function in protective humoral immune responses; however, their roles during early stages of infection and invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) are less well defined. Using a mouse model of pneumococcal sepsis, we found that CD4(+) T cells were recruited to the lung as early as 12 h after intranasal infection. Recruitment was accompanied by upregulation of CD69 and B7-H1, reflecting T-cell activation. Unexpectedly, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-deficient mice, which lack CD4(+) T cells, displayed an increased survival despite comparable bacterial titers in the blood, spleen, and lung. The higher survival correlated with a lower cytokine and chemokine response upon S. pneumoniae challenge in MHC class II-deficient mice, suggesting that inflammation may contribute to the mortality of IPD. Comparable to the case for MHC class II-deficient mice, antibody-mediated depletion of CD4(+) T cells and drug-induced inhibition of T-cell function with cyclosporine, or interference with T-cell activation using CTLA4-immunoglobulin (Abatacept), led to significant increases in survival during IPD. Our results reveal an important and adverse role of CD4(+) T cells in the pathogenesis of IPD and suggest that modulation of T-cell activation during early phases of S. pneumoniae invasive infection may provide a therapeutic option.

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