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Immunology. 1992 Aug;76(4):584-92.

Various membrane proteins of Francisella tularensis induce interferon-gamma production in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells of primed humans.

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National Defence Research Establishment, Department of Microbiology, University of Umeå, Sweden.


Tularaemia is an intracellular infection, which is controlled by the host as a result of an immunospecific T-cell response. A crucial product of the responding T cells is interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), which acts by enhancing the microbicidal activity of macrophages. T cells of tularaemia-vaccinated individuals respond in vitro to a multitude of protein antigens of the vaccine strain Francisella tularensis LVS. In the present study, the responses to four of these antigens were shown to be confined mostly to the CD45RO+ memory T-cell subset. To characterize further the phenotype of the responding cells, purified CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were stimulated with the antigens. CD4+ T cells, but not CD8+ T cells, proliferated and produced IFN-gamma. However, when CD8+ T cells were isolated from bulk cultures of lymphocytes, which had been stimulated with antigen for 3 days, they responded to an extent similar to that of CD4+ T cells. Purified CD8+ T cells also responded when they were supplemented with interleukin-2 (IL-2). There was a direct quantitative correlation between the proliferative response of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and their production of IFN-gamma. IL-2 was produced in the cultures, the amounts being higher in the cultures of CD4+ than in those of CD8+ cells. IL-4 was not detected in the culture medium of any of the T-cell subsets. Seventeen human alpha beta + CD4+ CD8- CD3+ T-cell clones, specific to antigens of F. tularensis, were raised. When proliferating, these clones did invariably produce IL-2 and IFN-gamma but no IL-4. In conclusion, both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells of tularaemia-vaccinated individuals respond with proliferation to various protein antigens of F. tularensis, and the proliferative response is strictly associated with IFN-gamma production. The CD8+ T-cell response seems to depend on cytokines supplied by proliferating CD4+ T cells.

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