Interleukin-6 is essential for primary resistance to Francisella tularensis live vaccine strain infection.

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Animals, Bacterial Vaccines, Francisella tularensis, Haptoglobins, Interleukin-6, Lymphocyte Activation, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Serum Amyloid A Protein, T-Lymphocytes, Tularemia, Vaccines, Attenuated

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Infect Immun 2013 Feb; 81(2):585-97.




We employed Francisella tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS) to study mechanisms of protective immunity against intracellular pathogens and, specifically, to understand protective correlates. One potential molecular correlate identified previously was interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine with pleotropic roles in immunity, including influences on T and B cell functions. Given its role as an immune modulator and the correlation with successful anti-LVS vaccination, we examined the role IL-6 plays in the host response to LVS. IL-6-deficient (IL-6 knockout [KO]) mice infected with LVS intradermally or intranasally or anti-IL-6-treated mice, showed greatly reduced 50% lethal doses compared to wild-type (WT) mice. Increased susceptibility was not due to altered splenic immune cell populations during infection or decreased serum antibody production, as IL-6 KO mice had similar compositions of each compared to WT mice. Although LVS-infected IL-6 KO mice produced much less serum amyloid A and haptoglobin (two acute-phase proteins) than WT mice, there were no other obvious pathophysiological differences between LVS-infected WT and IL-6 KO mice. IL-6 KO or WT mice that survived primary LVS infection also survived a high-dose LVS secondary challenge. Using an in vitro overlay assay that measured T cell activation, cytokine production, and abilities of primed splenocytes to control intracellular LVS growth, we found that IL-6 KO total splenocytes or purified T cells were slightly defective in controlling intracellular LVS growth but were equivalent in cytokine production. Taken together, IL-6 is an integral part of a successful immune response to primary LVS infection, but its exact role in precipitating adaptive immunity remains elusive. Infect Immun 2013 Feb; 81(2):585-97.