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Diversion of the Immune Response to Neisseria gonorrhoeae from Th17 to Th1/Th2 by Treatment with Anti-Transforming Growth Factor β Antibody Generates Immunological Memory and Protective Immunity



American Society of Microbiology

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      The immune response to Neisseria gonorrhoeae is poorly understood, but its extensive antigenic variability and resistance to complement are thought to allow it to evade destruction by the host’s immune defenses. We propose that N. gonorrhoeae also avoids inducing protective immune responses in the first place. We previously found that N. gonorrhoeae induces interleukin-17 (IL-17)-dependent innate responses in mice and suppresses Th1/Th2-dependent adaptive responses in murine cells in vitro through the induction of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β). In this study using a murine model of vaginal gonococcal infection, mice treated with anti-TGF-β antibody during primary infection showed accelerated clearance of N. gonorrhoeae, with incipient development of Th1 and Th2 responses and diminished Th17 responses in genital tract tissue. Upon secondary reinfection, mice that had been treated with anti-TGF-β during primary infection showed anamnestic recall of both Th1 and Th2 responses, with the development of antigonococcal antibodies in sera and secretions, and enhanced resistance to reinfection. In mouse knockout strains defective in Th1 or Th2 responses, accelerated clearance of primary infection due to anti-TGF-β treatment was dependent on Th1 activity but not Th2 activity, whereas resistance to secondary infection resulting from anti-TGF-β treatment during primary infection was due to both Th1- and Th2-dependent memory responses. We propose that N. gonorrhoeae proactively elicits Th17-driven innate responses that it can resist and concomitantly suppresses Th1/Th2-driven specific adaptive immunity that would protect the host. Blockade of TGF-β reverses this pattern of host immune responsiveness and facilitates the emergence of protective antigonococcal immunity.


      Pathogen-host interactions during infectious disease are conventionally thought of as two-way reactions, that of the host against the pathogen and vice versa, with the outcome dependent on which one ultimately prevails. We propose that Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a pathogen that has become extremely well adapted to its exclusive human host, proactively directs the manner in which the host responds in ways that are beneficial to its own survival but detrimental to the host. Gonorrhea is a widely prevalent sexually transmitted infection, and naturally occurring gonococcal strains are becoming resistant to most available antibiotics, yet no effective vaccine has been developed. These new insights into the immune response to N. gonorrhoeae should lead to novel therapeutic strategies and facilitate new approaches to vaccine development.

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      IL-17 and Th17 Cells.

      CD4+ T cells, upon activation and expansion, develop into different T helper cell subsets with different cytokine profiles and distinct effector functions. Until recently, T cells were divided into Th1 or Th2 cells, depending on the cytokines they produce. A third subset of IL-17-producing effector T helper cells, called Th17 cells, has now been discovered and characterized. Here, we summarize the current information on the differentiation and effector functions of the Th17 lineage. Th17 cells produce IL-17, IL-17F, and IL-22, thereby inducing a massive tissue reaction owing to the broad distribution of the IL-17 and IL-22 receptors. Th17 cells also secrete IL-21 to communicate with the cells of the immune system. The differentiation factors (TGF-beta plus IL-6 or IL-21), the growth and stabilization factor (IL-23), and the transcription factors (STAT3, RORgammat, and RORalpha) involved in the development of Th17 cells have just been identified. The participation of TGF-beta in the differentiation of Th17 cells places the Th17 lineage in close relationship with CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs), as TGF-beta also induces differentiation of naive T cells into Foxp3+ Tregs in the peripheral immune compartment. The investigation of the differentiation, effector function, and regulation of Th17 cells has opened up a new framework for understanding T cell differentiation. Furthermore, we now appreciate the importance of Th17 cells in clearing pathogens during host defense reactions and in inducing tissue inflammation in autoimmune disease.
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        Transforming growth factor-beta regulation of immune responses.

        Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) is a potent regulatory cytokine with diverse effects on hemopoietic cells. The pivotal function of TGF-beta in the immune system is to maintain tolerance via the regulation of lymphocyte proliferation, differentiation, and survival. In addition, TGF-beta controls the initiation and resolution of inflammatory responses through the regulation of chemotaxis, activation, and survival of lymphocytes, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, macrophages, mast cells, and granulocytes. The regulatory activity of TGF-beta is modulated by the cell differentiation state and by the presence of inflammatory cytokines and costimulatory molecules. Collectively, TGF-beta inhibits the development of immunopathology to self or nonharmful antigens without compromising immune responses to pathogens. This review highlights the findings that have advanced our understanding of TGF-beta in the immune system and in disease.
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          IL-17 and Th17 Cells


            Author and article information

            Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Witebsky Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA
            Author notes
            Address correspondence to Michael W. Russell, russellm@ .

            Editor B. Finlay, The University of British Columbia

            American Society of Microbiology (1752 N St., N.W., Washington, DC )
            24 May 2011
            May-Jun 2011
            : 2
            : 3
            Copyright © 2011 Liu and Russell

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Pages: 8
            Research Article
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            May/June 2011

            Life sciences


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