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J Immunol. 2006 Dec 15;177(12):8684-92.

Interleukin-23 restores immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in IL-12p40-deficient mice and is not required for the development of IL-17-secreting T cell responses.

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  • 1Mycobacterial Research Group, Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Newtown, New South Wales, Australia.


Host control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dependent on the activation of CD4+ T cells secreting IFN-gamma and their recruitment to the site of infection. The development of more efficient vaccines against tuberculosis requires detailed understanding of the induction and maintenance of T cell immunity. Cytokines important for the development of cell-mediated immunity include IL-12 and IL-23, which share the p40 subunit and the IL-12Rbeta1 signaling chain. To explore the differential effect of IL-12 and IL-23 during M. tuberculosis infection, we used plasmids expressing IL-23 (p2AIL-23) or IL-12 (p2AIL-12) alone in dendritic cells or macrophages from IL-12p40(-/-) mice. In the absence of the IL-12/IL-23 axis, immunization with a DNA vaccine expressing the M. tuberculosis Ag85B induced a limited Ag-specific T cell response and no control of M. tuberculosis infection. Co-delivery of p2AIL-23 or p2AIL-12 with DNA85B induced strong proliferative and IFN-gamma-secreting T cell responses equivalent to those observed in wild-type mice immunized with DNA85B. This response resulted in partial protection against aerosol M. tuberculosis; however, the protective effect was less than in wild-type mice owing to the requirement for IL-12 or IL-23 for the optimal expansion of IFN-gamma-secreting T cells. Interestingly, bacillus Calmette-Guérin immune T cells generated in the absence of IL-12 or IL-23 were deficient in IFN-gamma production, but exhibited a robust IL-17 secretion associated with a degree of protection against pulmonary infection. Therefore, exogenous IL-23 can complement IL-12 deficiency for the initial expansion of Ag-specific T cells and is not essential for the development of potentially protective IL-17-secreting T cells.

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