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J Immunol. 2003 Feb 15;170(4):1930-8.

CTLA-4 in filarial infections: implications for a role in diminished T cell reactivity.

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Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 4 Center Drive, Room 4/126, Bethesda, MD 20892.


To determine the role that CTLA-4 might play in mediating the diminished parasite Ag-specific T cell responsiveness that is characteristically seen in filaria-infected patients, several study populations and methods were used. First, quantitative assessment of mRNA expression determined that PBMC from uninfected adolescents exposed in utero to microfilarial (Mf) Ag demonstrated a strong up-regulation of CTLA-4 to the Mf stage of the parasite in contrast to that observed in cells from children born of uninfected mothers (p = 0.005). Next, the frequency of CTLA-4 expression was examined using flow cytometry in cells from filaria-infected and -uninfected individuals ex vivo. Individuals born in filarial endemic regions of the world (with long-standing infections) had greater percentages of CD4(+)CTLA-4(+) cells than did expatriate infected or uninfected individuals (p = 0.005 and 0.05, respectively); in addition, Mf(+) patients demonstrated higher frequencies of CD4(+)CTLA-4(+) and CD8(+)CTLA-4(+) cells (p = 0.027 and 0.037, respectively) than did Mf(-) infected individuals. Of interest, the greatest intensity of CTLA-4 expression occurred in CD4(+)CD25(+) cells, a population purported to include suppressor cells. Finally, in vitro blocking of CTLA-4 expression in PBMC from filaria-infected individuals induced a mean increase of 44% in IL-5 production to Mf Ag, whereas there was a concurrent mean decrease of 42% in IFN-gamma production, suggesting that CTLA-4 also acts to alter the Th1/Th2 balance in filaria-infected individuals. Together, these data indicate a significant role for CTLA-4 in regulating the host response to filarial infections and that factors such as length of exposure and patency are important codeterminants.

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