Diverse pathogens have evolved to survive and replicate in the endosomes or phagosomes of the host cells and establish persistent infection. Ehrlichiae are Gram-negative, intracellular bacteria that are transmitted by ticks. Ehrlichiae reside in the endosomes of the host phagocytic or endothelial cells and establish persistent infection in their vertebrate reservoir hosts. CD4+ T cells play a critical role in protection against phagosomal infections. In the present study, we investigated the expansion, maintenance, and functional status of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells during persistent Ehrlichia muris infection in wild-type and interleukin-10 (IL-10)-deficient mice. Our study indicated that early induction of IL-10 led to reduced inflammatory responses and impaired bacterial clearance during persistent Ehrlichia infection. Notably, we demonstrated that the functional production of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) by antigen-specific CD4+ T cells maintained during a persistent phagosomal infection progressively deteriorates. The functional loss of IFN-γ production by antigen-specific CD4+ T cells was reversed in the absence of IL-10. Furthermore, we demonstrated that transient blockade of IL-10 receptor during the T cell priming phase early in infection was sufficient to enhance the magnitude and the functional capacity of antigen-specific effector and memory CD4+ T cells, which translated into an enhanced recall response. Our findings provide new insights into the functional status of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells maintained during persistent phagosomal infection. The study supports the concept that a better understanding of the factors that influence the priming and differentiation of CD4+ T cells may provide a basis to induce a protective immune response against persistent infections.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases