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Infect Immun. 2010 Jun;78(6):2653-66. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01343-09. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

Gamma interferon produced by antigen-specific CD4+ T cells regulates the mucosal immune responses to Citrobacter rodentium infection.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan.


Citrobacter rodentium, a murine model pathogen for enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, colonizes the surface of intestinal epithelial cells and causes mucosal inflammation. This bacterium is an ideal model for investigating pathogen-host immune interactions in the gut. It is well known that gene transcripts for Th1 cytokines are highly induced in colonic tissue from mice infected with C. rodentium. However, it remains to be seen whether the Th1 or Th2 cytokines produced by antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells provide effective regulation of the host immune defense against C. rodentium infection. To investigate the antigen-specific immune responses, C. rodentium expressing ovalbumin (OVA-C. rodentium), a model antigen, was generated and used to define antigen-specific responses under gamma interferon (IFN-gamma)-deficient or interleukin-4 (IL-4)-deficient conditions in vivo. The activation of antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells and macrophage phagocytosis were evaluated in the presence of IFN-gamma or IL-4 in vitro. IFN-gamma-deficient mice exhibited a loss of body weight and a higher bacterial concentration in feces during OVA-C. rodentium infection than C57BL/6 (wild type) or IL-4-deficient mice. This occurred through the decreased efficiency of macrophage phagocytosis and the activation of antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, a deficiency in antigen-specific CD4(+) T-cell-expressed IFN-gamma led to a higher susceptibility to mucosal and gut-derived systemic OVA-C. rodentium infection. These results show that the IFN-gamma produced by antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells plays an important role in the defense against C. rodentium.

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