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Acquired Resistance but Not Innate Resistance to Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin Is Compromised by Interleukin-12 Ablation

  • LuAnn Thompson-Snipes
  • Emil Skamene
  • Danuta Radzioch
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Nov 01, 1998


Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is one of the first cytokines produced by macrophages, key mediators of innate resistance, during the host’s immune response to infections. Therefore, in this study we propose that IL-12 has an important role in the early phase of the immune response to Mycobacterium bovis BCG. IL-12 has been shown to enhance the maturation of protective Th1 cells and gamma interferon (IFN-γ) production during mycobacterial infection. Therefore, it may play a crucial role during the immune phase of infection as well. To examine the role of IL-12 in both the innate and the immune phase of infection, we compared BCG-resistant mice, B10.A (Bcgr), to the susceptible congenic strain B10.A (Bcgs) following administration of a blocking monoclonal antibody to IL-12 (10F6). Anti-IL-12-treated susceptible animals exhibited a two- to threefold increase in spleen CFU by day 21. In contrast, anti-IL-12 treatment had little or no effect on the response of the genetically resistant animals to infection. The B10.A (Bcgr) but not the B10.A (Bcgs) mice had an increase in IFN-γ mRNA relative to baseline levels as early as day 1 of infection irrespective of anti-IL-12 treatment. By day 14, B10.A (Bcgr) mice showed a decrease in IFN-γ mRNA while the B10.A (Bcgs) mice showed a significant increase in IFN-γ mRNA levels. Thus, during BCG infection, the B10.A (Bcgr) mice mount an early IFN-γ response against BCG whereas the B10.A (Bcgs) mice have a delayed IFN-γ response correlating with their genetic permissiveness expressed as an increased mycobacterial load by day 21. Overall, our data demonstrate that the inherent resistance of B10.A (Bcgr) mice to mycobacteria does not depend on optimal levels of IL-12 to maintain effective control of the bacteria, whereas IL-12 is important for the susceptible animals’ response to BCG during the peak of infection.

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