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Immunology. 2004 Aug;112(4):669-73.

Increased expression of mRNA encoding interleukin (IL)-4 and its splice variant IL-4delta2 in cells from contacts of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in the absence of in vitro stimulation.

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The Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, Windeyer Institute of Medical Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK.


Expression of interleukin (IL)-4 is increased in tuberculosis and thought to be detrimental. We show here that in healthy contacts there is increased expression of its naturally occurring antagonist, IL-4delta2 (IL-4delta2). We identified contacts by showing that their peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) released interferon (IFN)-gamma in response to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific antigen 6 kDa early secretory antigenic target (ESAT-6). Fresh unstimulated PBMC from these contacts contained higher levels of mRNA encoding IL-4delta2 (P=0.002) than did cells from ESAT-6 negative donors (noncontacts). These data indicate that contact with M. tuberculosis induces unusual, previously unrecognized, immunological events. We tentatively hypothesize that progression to active disease might depend upon the underlying ratio of IL-4 to IL-4delta2.

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