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Infect Immun. 2012 Dec;80(12):4195-202. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00741-12. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

Nocardia farcinica activates human dendritic cells and induces secretion of interleukin-23 (IL-23) rather than IL-12p70.

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Institute of Microbiology and Hygiene, Department of Infection Immunology, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Studying the interaction of dendritic cells (DCs) with bacteria controlled by T-cell-mediated immune responses may reveal novel adjuvants for the induction of cellular immunity. Murine studies and the observation that nocardias infect predominantly immunosuppressed patients have suggested that these bacteria may possess an adjuvant potential. Moreover, adjuvants on the basis of the nocardial cell wall have been applied in clinical studies. Since the handling of adjuvants by DCs may determine the type of immune responses induced by a vaccine, the present study aimed at investigating the interaction of immature human monocyte-derived DCs with live or inactivated Nocardia farcinica in vitro and determining the cellular phenotypic changes as well as alterations in characteristic functions, such as phagocytosis, induction of T-cell proliferation, and cytokine secretion. Human DCs ingested N. farcinica and eradicated the bacterium intracellularly. DCs exposed to inactivated N. farcinica were activated, i.e., they developed a mature phenotype, downregulated their phagocytic capacity, and stimulated allogeneic T cells in mixed leukocyte reactions. Soluble factors were not involved in this process. To elucidate the potential adjuvant effect of N. farcinica on the induction of T-cell-mediated immune responses, we characterized the cytokines produced by nocardia-exposed DCs and detected substantial amounts of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-12 p40 (IL-12p40). However, nocardia-treated DCs secreted only small amounts of IL-12p70, which were significantly smaller than the amounts of IL-23. Thus, N. farcinica activates DCs, but adjuvants based on this bacterium may have only a limited capacity to induce Th1 immune responses.

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