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PLoS One. 2010 Dec 16;5(12):e15567. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015567.

A fluorescence reporter model defines "Tip-DCs" as the cellular source of interferon β in murine listeriosis.

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  • 1Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Production of type I interferons, consisting mainly of multiple IFNα subtypes and IFNβ, represents an essential part of the innate immune defense against invading pathogens. While in most situations, namely viral infections, this class of cytokines is indispensable for host survival they mediate a detrimental effect during infection with L. monocytogenes by rendering macrophages insensitive towards IFNγ signalling which leads to a lethal bacterial pathology in mice. Due to a lack of suitable analytic tools the precise identity of the cell population responsible for type I IFN production remains ill-defined and so far these cells have been described to be macrophages. As in general IFNβ is the first type I interferon to be produced, we took advantage of an IFNβ fluorescence reporter-knockin mouse model in which YFP is expressed from a bicistronic mRNA linked by an IRES to the endogenous ifnb mRNA to assess the IFNβ production on a single cell level in situ. Our results showed highest frequencies and absolute numbers of IFNβ+ cells in the spleen 24 h after infection with L. monocytogenes where they were located predominately in the white pulp within the foci of infection. Detailed FACS surface marker analyses, intracellular cytokine stainings and T cell proliferation assays revealed that the IFNβ+ cells were a phenotypically and functionally further specialized subpopulation of TNF and iNOS producing DCs (Tip-DCs) which are known to be essential for the early containment of L. monocytogenes infection. We proved that the IFNβ+ cells exhibited the hallmark characteristics of Tip-DCs as they produced iNOS and TNF and possessed T cell priming abilities. These results point to a yet unappreciated ambiguous role for a multi-effector, IFNβ producing subpopulation of Tip-DCs in controlling the balance between containment of L. monocytogenes infection and effects detrimental to the host driven by IFNβ.

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