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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 5;8(8):e71388. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071388. Print 2013.

MyD88 deficiency markedly worsens tissue inflammation and bacterial clearance in mice infected with Treponema pallidum, the agent of syphilis.

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Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.


Research on syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection caused by the non-cultivatable spirochete Treponema pallidum, has been hampered by the lack of an inbred animal model. We hypothesized that Toll-like receptor (TLR)-dependent responses are essential for clearance of T. pallidum and, consequently, compared infection in wild-type (WT) mice and animals lacking MyD88, the adaptor molecule required for signaling by most TLRs. MyD88-deficient mice had significantly higher pathogen burdens and more extensive inflammation than control animals. Whereas tissue infiltrates in WT mice consisted of mixed mononuclear and plasma cells, infiltrates in MyD88-deficient animals were predominantly neutrophilic. Although both WT and MyD88-deficient mice produced antibodies that promoted uptake of treponemes by WT macrophages, MyD88-deficient macrophages were deficient in opsonophagocytosis of treponemes. Our results demonstrate that TLR-mediated responses are major contributors to the resistance of mice to syphilitic disease and that MyD88 signaling and FcR-mediated opsonophagocytosis are linked to the macrophage-mediated clearance of treponemes.

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