Role of T lymphocyte subsets in immunity to spotted fever group rickettsiae

Hui Min Feng, Vsevolod L. Popov, Gbo Yuoh, David H. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


To evaluate the roles of CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes in immunity to disseminated endothelial infection with Rickettsia conorii (Malish 7 strain), these T cell subsets were depleted or adoptively transferred into subsequently infected C3H/HeN mice. CD4 T lymphocyte-depleted and sham-depleted mice underwent a similar course of illness with a sublethal rickettsial dose, cleared the infection by day 10, and recovered on days 10 to 11. In contrast, mice depleted of CD8 lymphocytes or CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes died or remained persistently infected through day 15 with the ordinarily sublethal dose. Endothelium was the major site of rickettsial persistence, including sites in the vital organs, brain, and lungs of CD8 lymphocyte-depleted mice. In nondepleted animals, CD8 T lymphocytes were observed in apposition to endothelial cells on day 10 at the time of rickettsial clearance. Adoptive transfer of immune CD4 or CD8 T lymphocytes protected mice against a lethal dose of R. conorii in the disseminated endothelial target model. Nonimmune CD4 or CD8 lymphocytes and immune lymphocytes that had passed through columns that depleted both CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes failed to protect mice against R. conorii. These studies represent the first analysis of the role of T lymphocyte subsets in immunity to spotted fever group rickettsiae and the first demonstration that clearance of spotted fever group rickettsiae from endothelial cells requires immune CD8 T lymphocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5314-5320
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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