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Microb Pathog. 2010 Nov;49(5):217-25. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2010.06.002. Epub 2010 Jun 15.

Analysis of modulated gene expression in a model of Interferon-gamma-induced persistence of Chlamydia trachomatis in HEp-2 cells.

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Department of Infection and Immunity, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK.



Chlamydia trachomatis is an important pathogen, being the commonest sexually transmitted bacterial disease in the Western world and is also implicated in a number of acute and chronic diseases. Persistent infections of C. trachomatis are particularly associated with chronic infections, which although eliciting an immune response, result in tissue damage leading to complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease. Interferon (IFN)-gamma is known to induce persistent infections of C. trachomatis both in vitro and in vivo.


A model of IFN-gamma-induced persistence containing aberrant inclusions of C. trachomatis was developed in the HEp-2 cell line. Morphological changes to inclusions were assessed by fluorescence immunocytochemistry and transcript levels determined by Real-Time RT-PCR. To assess infectivity of C. trachomatis in an IFN-gamma-induced persistent state, cultures containing aberrant inclusions were inoculated onto fresh HEp-2 monolayers.


IFN-gamma induced aberrant inclusion formation at 0.01 ng/ml. Doses from 0.05 to 100 ng/ml did not significantly increase numbers of aberrant inclusions, and some normal inclusions were observed at the highest dose of IFN-gamma. Transfer of IFN-gamma-treated C. trachomatis onto fresh cultures confirmed the infectivity of these cultures. Real-Time RT-PCR identified apparent increased expression of the C. trachomatis heat-shock response genes ct604 and ct755 at 96-h post-infection. However comparisons with control cultures suggest that this more likely reflects a failure to down regulate gene expression as observed in untreated cultures.


These data show that whereas IFN-gamma induces aberrant inclusion formation, many normal inclusions are still observed at high doses of IFN-gamma, and that the infectivity of such cultures is presumably from these. Transcriptional changes observed in response to IFN-gamma suggest a failure of the C. trachomatis life cycle in response to IFN-gamma, however IFN-gamma-induced transcriptional changes may be masked by the presence of normal inclusions. The implications of these observations in relation to models of persistence of C. trachomatis are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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