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PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22434. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022434. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

The spleen CD4+ T cell response to blood-stage Plasmodium chabaudi malaria develops in two phases characterized by different properties.

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Departamento de Imunologia, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


The pivotal role of spleen CD4(+) T cells in the development of both malaria pathogenesis and protective immunity makes necessary a profound comprehension of the mechanisms involved in their activation and regulation during Plasmodium infection. Herein, we examined in detail the behaviour of non-conventional and conventional splenic CD4(+) T cells during P. chabaudi malaria. We took advantage of the fact that a great proportion of CD4(+) T cells generated in CD1d(-/-) mice are I-A(b)-restricted (conventional cells), while their counterparts in I-A(b-/-) mice are restricted by CD1d and other class IB major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules (non-conventional cells). We found that conventional CD4(+) T cells are the main protagonists of the immune response to infection, which develops in two consecutive phases concomitant with acute and chronic parasitaemias. The early phase of the conventional CD4(+) T cell response is intense and short lasting, rapidly providing large amounts of proinflammatory cytokines and helping follicular and marginal zone B cells to secrete polyclonal immunoglobulin. Both TNF-α and IFN-γ production depend mostly on conventional CD4(+) T cells. IFN-γ is produced simultaneously by non-conventional and conventional CD4(+) T cells. The early phase of the response finishes after a week of infection, with the elimination of a large proportion of CD4(+) T cells, which then gives opportunity to the development of acquired immunity. Unexpectedly, the major contribution of CD1d-restricted CD4(+) T cells occurs at the beginning of the second phase of the response, but not earlier, helping both IFN-γ and parasite-specific antibody production. We concluded that conventional CD4(+) T cells have a central role from the onset of P. chabaudi malaria, acting in parallel with non-conventional CD4(+) T cells as a link between innate and acquired immunity. This study contributes to the understanding of malaria immunology and opens a perspective for future studies designed to decipher the molecular mechanisms behind immune responses to Plasmodium infection.

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