TLR2 and TLR4 signaling pathways are required for recombinant Brucella abortus BCSP31-induced cytokine production, functional upregulation of mouse macrophages, and the Th1 immune response in vivo and in vitro

Jia-Yun Li, Yuan Liu, Xiao-Xue Gao, Xiang Gao, Hong Cai
Cellular & Molecular Immunology 2014, 11 (5): 477-94
Brucella abortus is a zoonotic Gram-negative pathogen that causes brucelosis in ruminants and humans. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) recognize Brucella abortus and initiate antigen-presenting cell activities that affect both innate and adaptive immunity. In this study, we focused on recombinant Brucella cell-surface protein 31 (rBCSP31) to determine its effects on mouse macrophages. Our results demonstrated that rBCSP31 induced TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-12p40 production, which depended on the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) by stimulating the rapid phosphorylation of p38 and JNK and the activation of transcription factor NF-κB in macrophages. In addition, continuous exposure (>24 h) of RAW264.7 cells to rBCSP31 significantly enhanced IFN-γ-induced expression of MHC-II and the ability to present rBCSP31 peptide to CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, we found that rBCSP31 could interact with both TLR2 and TLR4. The rBCSP31-induced cytokine production by macrophages from TLR2(-/-) and TLR4(-/-) mice was lower than that from C57BL/6 macrophages, and the activation of NF-κB and MAPKs was attenuated in macrophages from TLR2(-/-) and TLR4(-/-) mice. In addition, CD4(+) T cells from C57BL/6 mice immunized with rBCSP31 produced higher levels of IFN-γ and IL-2 compared with CD4(+) T cells from TLR2(-/-) and TLR4(-/-) mice. Macrophages from immunized C57BL/6 mice produced higher levels of IL-12p40 than those from TLR2(-/-) and TLR4(-/-) mice. Furthermore, immunization with rBCSP31 provided better protection in C57BL/6 mice than in TLR2(-/-) and TLR4(-/-) mice after B. abortus 2308 challenge. These results indicate that rBCSP31 is a TLR2 and TLR4 agonist that induces cytokine production, upregulates macrophage function and induces the Th1 immune response.

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