The female lower genital tract is a privileged compartment with IL-10 producing dendritic cells and poor Th1 immunity following Chlamydia trachomatis infection

Ellen Marks, Miguel A Tam, Nils Y Lycke
PLoS Pathogens 2010, 6 (11): e1001179
While a primary genital tract infection with C. trachomatis stimulates partial-protection against re-infection, it may also result in severe inflammation and tissue destruction. Here we have dissected whether functional compartments exist in the genital tract that restrict Th1-mediated protective immunity. Apart from the Th1-subset, little is known about the role of other CD4(+) T cell subsets in response to a genital tract chlamydial infection. Therefore, we investigated CD4(+) T cell subset differentiation in the genital tract using RT-PCR for expression of critical transcription factors and cytokines in the upper (UGT) and lower genital tract (LGT) of female C57BL/6 mice in response to C. trachomatis serovar D infection. We found that the Th1 subset dominated the UGT, as IFN-γ and T-bet mRNA expression were high, while GATA-3 was low following genital infection with C. trachomatis serovar D. By contrast, IL-10 and GATA-3 mRNA dominated the LGT, suggesting the presence of Th2 cells. These functional compartments also attracted regulatory T cells (Tregs) differently as increased FoxP3 mRNA expression was seen primarily in the UGT. Although IL-17A mRNA was somewhat up-regulated in the LGT, no significant change in RORγ-t mRNA expression was observed, suggesting no involvement of Th17 cells. The dichotomy between the LGT and UGT was maintained during infection by IL-10 because in IL-10-deficient mice the distinction between the two compartments was completely lost and a dramatic shift to the predominance of Th1 cells in the LGT occurred. Unexpectedly, the major source of IL-10 was CD11c(+) CD11b(+) DC, probably creating an anti-inflammatory privileged site in the LGT.

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