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Exp Parasitol. 1999 Mar;91(3):212-21.

Functional and quantitative analysis of splenic T cell immune responses following oral toxoplasma gondii infection in mice.

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Department of Medicine (Neurology) and Microbiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire 037656, USA.


Functional and quantitative analysis of splenic T cell immune responses following oral Toxoplasma gondii infection in mice. Experimental Parasitology 91, 212-221. Immunity to Toxoplasma gondii is mediated primarily by the host T cell response. Although there is considerable information regarding host immunity following intraperitoneal infection with tachyzoites, little information is available regarding naturally acquired infection following peroral infection with bradyzoites. In this study, a sequential quantitative analysis of the cell-mediated immune response was performed at the single cell level. To assess the kinetics of this response and parasitic loads, inbred mice were orally infected with the 76K strain bradyzoites of T. gondii. Within 24 h of infection, follicular hyperplasia followed by infiltration with histiocytes, macrophages, and apoptotic bodies was observed in the spleens of infected mice. T. gondii were detected from day 1, and counts increased gradually during the experimental period. Splenocyte DNA synthesis to antigen and mitogen was severely suppressed at days 7 and 10. The percentages of NK1.1(+) or delta gamma T cells were increased from day 1, whereas CD4(+) and CD8alpha+ T cells were signficantly increased after day 7 postinfection. CD25 expression and intracellular IFN-gamma production increased in NK1.1(+) cells on day 1 and by all other T cell subsets after day 4. Intracellular IL-4 did not increase until day 7, and IL-10 production was increased in all T cell subsets after day 4. Together, these findings indicate that oral infection with T. gondii stimulates a strong cellular immune response that appears to polarize toward an early Th1 response. However, within 7 days, a strong immune Th2 regulatory response as well as high parasitic loads can be observed, with a reduction in lymphoproliferation to mitogen stimulation, increased production of IL-4 and IL-10, and evidence of T cell apoptosis in the splenic immune compartment.

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