Resistance to Toxoplasma gondii has been shown to be mediated by gamma interferon (IFN-γ) produced by NK, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells. While studies of SCID mice have implicated NK cells as the source of the cytokine in acute infection, several lines of evidence suggest that IFN-γ production by CD4+ T lymphocytes also plays an important role in controlling early parasite growth. To evaluate whether this function is due to nonspecific as opposed to T-cell receptor (TCR)-dependent stimulation by the parasite, we have examined the resistance to T. gondii infection of pigeon cytochrome c transgenic (PCC- Tg) Rag-2(-/-) mice in which all CD4+ T lymphocytes are unreactive with the protozoan. When inoculated with the ME49 strain, PCC-Tg animals exhibited only temporary control of acute infection and succumbed by day 17. Intracellular cytokine staining by flow cytometry revealed that, in contrast to infected nontransgenic controls, infected PCC-Tg animals failed to develop IFN-γ-producing CD4+ T cells. Moreover, the CD4+ lymphocytes from these mice showed no evidence of activation as judged by lack of upregulated expression of CD44 or CD69. Nevertheless, when acutely infected transgenic mice were primed by PCC injection, the lymphokine responses measured after in vitro antigen restimulation displayed a strong Th1 bias which was shown to be dependent on endogenous interleukin 12 (1L-12). The above findings argue that, while T. gondii-induced 1L-12 cannot trigger IFN-γ production by CD4+ T cells in the absence of TCR ligation, the pathogen is able to nonspecifically promote Th1 responses against nonparasite antigens, an effect that may explain the immunostimulatory properties of T. gondii infection.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases