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J Immunol. 2005 Apr 15;174(8):4924-33.

Removal of regulatory T cell activity reverses hyporesponsiveness and leads to filarial parasite clearance in vivo.

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Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


Human filarial parasites cause chronic infection associated with long-term down-regulation of the host's immune response. We show here that CD4+ T cell regulation is the main determinant of parasite survival. In a laboratory model of infection, using Litomosoides sigmodontis in BALB/c mice, parasites establish for >60 days in the thoracic cavity. During infection, CD4+ T cells at this site express increasing levels of CD25, CTLA-4, and glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor family-related gene (GITR), and by day 60, up to 70% are CTLA-4(+)GITR(high), with a lesser fraction coexpressing CD25. Upon Ag stimulation, CD4(+)CTLA-4(+)GITR(high) cells are hyporesponsive for proliferation and cytokine production. To test the hypothesis that regulatory T cell activity maintains hyporesponsiveness and prolongs infection, we treated mice with Abs to CD25 and GITR. Combined Ab treatment was able to overcome an established infection, resulting in a 73% reduction in parasite numbers (p < 0.01). Parasite killing was accompanied by increased Ag-specific immune responses and markedly reduced levels of CTLA-4 expression. The action of the CD25(+)GITR+ cells was IL-10 independent as in vivo neutralization of IL-10R did not restore the ability of the immune system to kill parasites. These data suggest that regulatory T cells act, in an IL-10-independent manner, to suppress host immunity to filariasis.

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