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Infect Immun. 2006 Aug;74(8):4530-7.

Signal transduction, gene transcription, and cytokine production triggered in macrophages by exposure to trypanosome DNA.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin Medical School of Medicine and Public Health, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1532, USA.


Activation of a type I cytokine response is important for early resistance to infection with Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, the extracellular protozoan parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. The work presented here demonstrates that trypanosome DNA activates macrophages to produce factors that may contribute to this response. Initial results demonstrated that T. brucei rhodesiense DNA was present in the plasma of C57BL/6 and C57BL/6-scid mice following infection. Subsequently, the effect of trypanosome DNA on macrophages was investigated; parasite DNA was found to be less stimulatory than Escherichia coli DNA but more stimulatory than murine DNA, as predicted by the CG dinucleotide content. Trypanosome DNA stimulated the induction of a signal transduction cascade associated with Toll-like receptor signaling in RAW 264.7 macrophage cells. The signaling cascade led to expression of mRNAs, including interleukin-12 (IL-12) p40, IL-6, IL-10, cyclooxygenase-2, and beta interferon. The treatment of RAW 264.7 cells and bone marrow-derived macrophages with trypanosome DNA induced the production of NO, prostaglandin E2, and the cytokines IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. In all cases, DNase I treatment of T. brucei rhodesisense DNA abolished the activation. These results suggest that T. brucei rhodesiense DNA serves as a ligand for innate immune cells and may play an important contributory role in early stimulation of the host immune response during trypanosomiasis.

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