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Am J Pathol. 2009 Apr;174(4):1379-89. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2009.080550. Epub 2009 Feb 26.

Lymphotoxin-alpha and TNF have essential but independent roles in the evolution of the granulomatous response in experimental leprosy.

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DHHS, HRSA, Bureau of Primary Health Care, National Hansen's Disease Programs Laboratory Research Branch at LSU-SVM, Skip Bertman Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.


Recent studies identified an association between genetic variants in the lymphotoxin-alpha (LTalpha) gene and leprosy. To study the influence of LTalpha on the control of experimental leprosy, both low- and high-dose Mycobacterium leprae foot pad (FP) infections were evaluated in LTalpha-deficient chimeric (cLTalpha(-/-)) and control chimeric (cB6) mice. Cellular responses to low-dose infection in cLTalpha(-/-) mice were dramatically different, with reduced accumulation of CD4(+) and CD8(+) lymphocytes and macrophages and failure to form granulomas. Growth of M. leprae was contained for 6 months, but augmented late in infection. In contrast, tumor necrosis factor knockout and tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 knockout FPs exhibited extensive inflammatory infiltration with an increase in M. leprae growth throughout infection. Following high-dose infection, cB6 FP induration peaked at 4 weeks and was maintained for 12 weeks. Induration was not sustained in cLTalpha(-/-) FPs that contained few lymphocytes and no granulomas. There was a reduction in the expression levels of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and chemokine receptors, including nitric oxide synthase 2, vascular cell adhesion molecule, and intercellular cell adhesion molecule. Furthermore, cLTalpha(-/-) popliteal lymph nodes contained a higher proportion of naïve CD44(lo)CD62L(hi) T cells than cB6 mice, suggestive of reduced T cell activation. Therefore, both LTalpha and tumor necrosis factor are essential for the regulation of the granuloma, but they have distinctive roles in the recruitment of lymphocytes and maintenance of the granulomatous response during chronic M. leprae infection.

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