Cellular immunity in Q fever: Modulation of responsiveness by a suppressor T cell-monocyte circuit

F. T. Koster, J. C. Williams, J. S. Goodwin

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42 Scopus citations


Human infection with the rickettsia Coxiella burnetii presents as an acute flulike primary Q fever, as a subacute granulomatous hepatitis, or, rarely, as chronic endocarditis. We have previously described lymphocyte unresponsiveness to Coxiella antigen in patients with Q fever endocarditis. This unresponsiveness was antigen specific and was mediated in part by adherent suppressor cells. In this report we show that the adherent suppressor cells work via prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production. Addition of the cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin to cultures of PBMC from patients with endocarditis or chronic laboratory exposure resulted in consistent increases in Coxiella-specific lymphocyte proliferation. The degree of increase in proliferation induced by indomethacin correlated strongly with the amount of PGE2 produced in a 4-hr culture stimulated by Coxiella antigen, but it also correlated with the sensitivity to inhibition of mitogenesis by PGE2. The suppressor mechanism was antigen nonspecific, because induction of suppression in vitro by Coxiella antigen also suppressed Candida-induced proliferation when both antigens were present in the same culture. Addition of indomethacin to these antigen cocultures totally reversed the Coxiella-induced suppression, confirming the evidence above that the nonspecific effector mechanism of suppression was prostaglandin (PG)-mediated. Elicitation of suppression, however, was antigen specific and involved a T cell-monocyte suppressor circuit. Supernatants from Coxiella-stimulated immune T cells and from the suppressor subset (OKT8+-enriched) of those T cells, but not unstimulated immune cells, induced augmented PGE2 production by unrelated nonimmune PBMC. We conclude that the lymphocyte unresponsiveness characterizing patients with Q fever endocarditis is modulated in part by an antigen-specific T suppressor cell which secretes a lymphokine to stimulate PGE2 production by adherent cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1067-1072
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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