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Immunology. 1997 Dec;92(4):413-21.

T-cell-independent granuloma formation in response to Mycobacterium avium: role of tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma.

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Department of Clinical Science, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.


We used Mycobacterium avium infection in severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice to examine T-cell-independent mechanisms of inflammatory cell recruitment. SCID mice infected with a virulent strain of M. avium (TMC724) were able to recruit macrophages to sites of mycobacterial replication and formed organized and coherent granulomas in the absence of functional T cells. Phagocyte recruitment was almost totally ablated by neutralization of either tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) or interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) in vivo demonstrating that granuloma formation was dependent on the presence of these cytokines. This was concomitant with a reduction in the in situ cytokine mRNA levels otherwise induced in infected mice, for chemokines, pro-inflammatory and regulatory cytokines, including TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and IL-10. Furthermore, in vivo treatment of infected mice with anti-asialo GM-1 antisera, which depletes natural killer (NK) cells, prevented recruitment of inflammatory cells. In vitro studies confirmed that M. avium was able to elicit IFN-gamma from SCID spleen in a dose-dependent manner. These data show for the first time that secretion of IFN-gamma from NK cells can mediate a T-cell-independent pathway of granuloma formation and cellular infiltration in response to mycobacteria.

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