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Immunobiology. 2012 Apr;217(4):420-9. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2011.10.012. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

Protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 1 acute infection shows a signature of Th17- and IFN-γ-mediated immunity.

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Laboratory for Vaccine Research, Departamento de Desarrollo Biotecnológico, Instituto de Higiene, Facultad de Medicina - UdelaR. Avda. A. Navarro 3051, CP 11600, Montevideo-Uruguay.


Acute pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of child mortality. Antibodies are considered the main effectors of protection in this clinical presentation of pneumococcal invasive disease. To get new insights into the mechanisms involved in the protective immunity, we established a murine experimental model of protection against acute pneumococcal pneumonia and then evaluated the transcriptional, humoral and cellular responses in protected and non-protected animals. We found that intranasal inoculation of a sublethal dose of S. pneumoniae serotype 1 conferred complete protection against a subsequent challenge with a lethal dose of the same strain. Sublethal infection elicited a strong IgM and IgG antibody response against the capsular polysaccharide, as assessed one week later, and an exacerbated influx of neutrophils into the lungs immediately after the lethal challenge. Genome-wide microarray-based transcriptional analysis of whole lungs showed 149 differentially expressed genes among which we found upregulation of Il17a, Ifng and several IL-17A- and IFN-γ-related genes in protected versus non-protected mice. Kinetics analysis showed higher expression levels of Il17a in protected animals at all time points whereas Ifng was upregulated early in the protected mice and later in the non-protected animals. Intracelluar cytokine staining demonstrated that CD4(+) T cells account for a great proportion of the IL-17A produced in the lungs of protected animals. Overall, these results showed that an upregulation of IL-17A- and a timely regulation of IFN-γ-related gene expression, together with development of a Th17 response, are relevant characteristics of the protective immunity against S. pneumoniae acute pneumonia.

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