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J Exp Med. 1994 May 1;179(5):1551-61.

Endogenous interleukin 12 (IL-12) regulates granuloma formation induced by eggs of Schistosoma mansoni and exogenous IL-12 both inhibits and prophylactically immunizes against egg pathology.

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Immunology and Cell Biology Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Morbidity in humans infected with Schistosoma mansoni results primarily from the deposition of parasite eggs in portal areas where they induce a granulomatous response. In mice infected with this helminth granuloma formation is a CD4+ T helper (Th) cell-dependent process that is associated with a strong Th2 cytokine response which appears to evolve through a Th0 phase. In this report, we asked whether endogenously synthesized or exogenously induced interferon (IFN)gamma through its suppression of Th2 cell expansion exerts a regulatory role on egg pathology. Depletion of IFN-gamma or natural killer cells resulted in a marked enhancement of granuloma formation around intravenously injected eggs and was associated with increased Th2 and decreased Th1 and interleukin (IL)12 mRNA expression. Similar changes occurred when egg-injected mice were treated with neutralizing monoclonal antibodies specific for IL-12 indicating a role for this cytokine in the regulation of the granulomatous response. In contrast, treatment with exogenous rIL-12 profoundly inhibited primary granuloma formation while increasing IFN-gamma, IL-2, IL-10, and IL-12 pulmonary mRNA levels and suppressing IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, and IL-13 mRNA expression. Cytokine depletion studies indicated that the effects of IL-12 could be attributed primarily to increased IFN-gamma. Importantly, IL-12 also inhibited secondary granuloma formation in mice presensitized with eggs demonstrating a role for the cytokine in reversing established Th2-type responses. Moreover, mice sensitized with eggs in combination with IL-12 to precommit them toward a Th1 response developed only minimal granulomas upon subsequent egg challenge. The latter findings suggest that simultaneous vaccination with antigen plus IL-12 may provide a strategy for the prevention of schistosome egg pathology as well as other diseases stemming from Th2 cytokine production.

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