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J Immunol. 2006 Jun 1;176(11):6918-27.

F4/80+ alternatively activated macrophages control CD4+ T cell hyporesponsiveness at sites peripheral to filarial infection.

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


Both T cells and APC have been strongly implicated in the immune suppression observed during filarial nematode infections, but their relative roles are poorly understood, particularly in regard to timing and locality of action. Using Litomosoides sigmodontis infection of susceptible BALB/c mice, we have studied the progression of filarial immunosuppression leading to patent infection with blood microfilaremia. Patent infection is associated with decreased immune responsiveness in the draining thoracic lymph nodes (tLN) and intrinsically hyporesponsive CD4+ T cells at the infection site. We now show that we are able to separate, both in time and space, different suppressive mechanisms and cell populations that contribute to filarial hyporesponsiveness. L. sigmodontis infection recruited a F4/80+ population of alternatively activated macrophages that potently inhibited Ag-specific CD4+ T cell proliferative responses even in the presence of competent naive APC. T cell responsiveness was partially restored by neutralizing TGF-beta, but not by blocking IL-10 or CTLA-4 signaling. During prepatent infection, the macrophage population was restricted to the infection site. However, once infection became patent with systemic release of microfilariae, the suppressive macrophage activity extended peripherally into the tLN. In contrast, the hyporesponsive CD4+ T cell phenotype remained localized at the infection site, and the tLN CD4+ T cell population recovered full Ag responsiveness in the absence of suppressive macrophages. Filarial immunosuppression, therefore, evolves over time at sites increasingly distal to infection, and the mechanisms of filarial down-regulation are dependent on proximity to the infection site.

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