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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2007 Oct 15;119(3-4):204-13. Epub 2007 Jun 2.

Associations between cytokine gene expression and pathology in Mycobacterium bovis infected cattle.

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United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Bacterial Diseases of Livestock Research Unit, National Animal Disease Center, 2300 Dayton Avenue, Ames, IA 50010, USA.


An impediment to the development of efficacious vaccines for bovine tuberculosis has been the failure to demonstrate strong associations between immune function and protective immunity. Cytokine gene expression in response to Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) infection was evaluated to identify correlates of immunity. Ten Holstein calves were infected with M. bovis by intratonsillar inoculation. Five uninfected animals served as controls. At 15, 30, 60 and 85 days post-infection (dpi) peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were isolated and stimulated with either purified protein derivative of M. bovis (PPD), a recombinant fusion protein comprised of 6 kDa early secretory antigenic target and 10 kDa culture filtrate antigen (rESAT6:CFP10), or PBS. After a 16 h incubation period, total leukocyte RNA was isolated and gene expression evaluated using reverse transcriptase real-time PCR. In addition, gene expression adjacent to gross lesion in the retropharyngeal lymph node (LN) was analyzed. Pathology was evaluated at necropsy. Expression of IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, iNOS and IL-4 by PBMC increased in response to infection, whereas, IL-10 expression decreased. Differences in gene expression between PBMC from infected and uninfected animals was greatest at 30 dpi. Infected animals were divided into two groups based on pathology. Animals in the low pathology group had lesions primarily in LN of the head; whereas, animals in the high pathology group also had lesions in the lungs and lung associated LN. Gene expression in PBMC and LN was compared between animals in the high and low pathology groups. Cells from animals in the high pathology group expressed more IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, iNOS and IL-4 than did animals in the low pathology group at early time points. IL-10 gene expression decreased with time in PBMC from animals in the high pathology group. At 85 dpi, animals in the high pathology group expressed twofold less IL-10 mRNA than did animals in the low pathology group and the uninfected controls. IFN-gamma and iNOS gene expression were significantly greater in tissues from infected animals compared to tissues from uninfected animals. The pathological outcome of M. bovis infection of cattle may be established early after infection since expression of both the TH1 and TH2 cytokines were differentially expressed by animals in the high and low pathology groups at early time points. In addition, more robust immunological responses were associated with increased pathology. These results suggest that early immune responses play a critical role in establishing the pathological outcome.

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