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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2013 Nov 15;156(1-2):82-90. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2013.08.001. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Apoptosis of lymph node and peripheral blood cells in ovine Johne's disease.

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Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, 425 Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia. Electronic address:


Ovine Johne's disease (OJD) is a degenerative wasting condition of ruminants caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP). Similar to other pathogenic mycobacterial infections it is a slow-progressing chronic disease and subclinically infected individuals can spread the disease while appearing healthy. MAP infects macrophages and the host responds by mounting a cell-mediated immune response. Disease progression is associated with immune dysfunction but the reasons are unknown. Increasing our current knowledge of the immunological mechanisms involved in disease progression, including apoptotic responses, may allow advancements in the area of early diagnosis, identification of resistant animals and disease control. We describe lymphocyte apoptosis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and lymph node cells from sheep exposed to MAP as well as from healthy non-exposed sheep. Apoptosis in intestinal lymph node cells from MAP-exposed infected sheep, but not in MAP-exposed uninfected sheep, increased in response to MAP antigen. In this first longitudinal study of lymphocyte apoptosis using an experimental infection model of MAP infection, we found that there was a transient increase of ex vivo PBMC apoptosis in MAP-exposed sheep soon after exposure to MAP (4 months post inoculation). MAP antigen-specific apoptosis occurred later, at 12 months post inoculation. The cells involved were mainly γδ and CD4(+) T cells. Antigen-mediated lymphocyte apoptosis during mycobacterial disease progression could contribute to the immune dysfunction in Johne's disease.


Apoptosis; Johne's disease; Lymphocytes; Paratuberculosis

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