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Vet Microbiol. 2002 Dec 20;90(1-4):367-82.

Fundamentals of host immune response against Brucella abortus: what the mouse model has revealed about control of infection.

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Paige Laboratory, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


The studies reviewed here evaluated the role cellular immune system components play in control of brucellosis by conducting comparative studies with brucella-resistant C57BL/10 or C57BL/6 mice and susceptible BALB/c mice. We have shown by both in vitro and in vivo studies that activation of macrophages with interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) is an important factor for control of infection with B. abortus in the mouse model and that the mechanism of anti-brucella activity largely involved reactive oxygen intermediates. Differences in control of the organism by resistant and susceptible mice was not related to inherent differences in the ability of their macrophages to control infection either with or without IFN-gamma activation nor was it attributable to NK cells since we found no role for them in control of brucellosis in either mouse strain. However, relative resistance to brucellosis did correlate with increased production of IFN-gamma by CD4 T cells during the first weeks after infection while IL-10 contributed to susceptibility in BALB/c mice. Moreover, by 3 weeks post-infection splenocytes from the susceptible BALB/c mice failed to produce IFN-gamma and relied on TNF-alpha as well as CD8 T cells to control infection until the end of the plateau phase around 6 weeks post-infection when IFN-gamma production resumed and clearance began. In contrast, IFN-gamma was crucial for control throughout the infection in the more resistant C57BL/6 mice and the mice died in its absence by 6 weeks post-infection compared to 12 weeks for the more susceptible mice that relied on additional mechanisms of control. In contrast to the IFN-gamma knock-out mice, both beta2 microglobulin knock-out C57BL/6 mice, which do not express conventional MHC class I molecules and thus cannot present antigen to CD8 T cells, or perforin knock-out C57BL/6 mice, which have no T cell cytotoxic activity, controlled and cleared the infection as well as normal C57BL/6 mice. The hiatus of IFN-gamma production in BALB/c mice correlated with very high levels of total IL-12 and it was postulated that the lack of IFN-gamma was a consequence of p40 homodimer blocking activity. However, reduction of p40 IL-12 in vivo through administration of indomethacin reduced the infection without a concomitant measurable increase in IFN-gamma. Current studies are aimed at elucidating the mechanism of the IFN-gamma hiatus.

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