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Immunology. 2009 Sep;128(1 Suppl):e296-305. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2008.02962.x. Epub 2008 Nov 7.

Expression of interferon-gamma and tumour necrosis factor-alpha messenger RNA does not correlate with protection in guinea pigs challenged with virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis by the respiratory route.

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Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis, Texas A&M Health Science Center, College Station, TX 77843-1114, USA.


Cytokine messenger RNA (mRNA) expression was investigated in the spleen and lung digest cells of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)-vaccinated and non-vaccinated guinea pigs following low-dose, pulmonary exposure to virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis. After purified protein derivative (PPD) stimulation, the levels of lung cell interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and spleen cell interleukin-12 (IL-12) p40 mRNAs were significantly increased in the non-vaccinated M. tuberculosis-infected guinea pigs compared to the BCG-vaccinated guinea pigs. In contrast, the expression of anti-inflammatory transforming growth factor-beta and IL-10 mRNAs was significantly enhanced in the spleens of BCG-vaccinated animals. Despite the presence of protective cytokine mRNA expression, the non-vaccinated guinea pigs had significantly higher lung and spleen bacterial burdens. In contrast, BCG-vaccinated guinea pigs controlled the bacterial multiplication in their lungs and spleens, indicating that both protective as well as anti-inflammatory cytokine responses are associated with a reduction in bacteria. In addition, lung digest cells from non-vaccinated guinea pigs contained a significantly higher percentage of neutrophils, CD3(+) and CD8(+) T cells, while the percentage of macrophages was increased in the BCG-vaccinated animals. Total and purified lung digest T cells co-cultured with lung macrophages (LMøs) proliferated poorly after PPD stimulation in both non-vaccinated and BCG-vaccinated animals while robust proliferation to PPD was observed when T cells were co-cultured with peritoneal macrophages (PMøs). Macrophages within the lung compartment appear to regulate the response of T cells irrespective of the vaccination status in guinea pigs. Taken together, our results suggest that type I cytokine mRNA expression is not associated with vaccine-induced protection in the low-dose guinea pig model of tuberculosis.

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