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Interleukin-12p40 overexpression promotes interleukin-12p70 and interleukin-23 formation but does not affect bacille Calmette-Guérin and Mycobacterium tuberculosis clearance.
Interleukin (IL)-12p40, a subunit of IL-12p70 and IL-23, has previously been shown to inhibit IL-12p70 activity and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production. However, recent evidence has suggested that the role of IL-12p40 is more complex. To study the contribution of IL-12p40 to immune responses against mycobacterial infections, we have used transgenic (tg) mice overexpressing IL-12p40 under the control of a major histocompatibility complex-II promoter. The IL-12p40 transgene was expressed during steady state at concentrations of 129 +/- 25 ng/ml of serum and 75 +/- 13 ng per spleen, while endogenous IL-12p40 was hardly detectable in control littermates. Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) infection strongly induced the expression of IL-12p40 transgene in infected organs, and IL-12p40 monomeric and dimeric forms were identified in spleen of IL-12p40 tg mice. Excessive production of IL-12p40 resulted in a 14-fold increase in IL-12p70 serum levels in tg mice versus non-transgenic mice. IL-23 was also strongly elevated in the serum and spleens of IL-12p40 tg mice through BCG infection. While IFN-gamma and tumour necrosis factor protein levels were similar in IL-12p40 tg and non-transgenic mice, Th2 type immune responses were reduced in IL-12p40 tg mice. The number of BCG granulomas and macrophage expressing inducible nitric oxide synthase were similar in IL-12p40 tg and non-transgenic mice. IL-12p40 tg mice were as resistant as non-transgenic mice to BCG and Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections as they could efficiently control bacillary growth. These data show that high amounts of IL-12p40 promotes IL-12p70 and IL-23 formation, but that does not affect T helper 1 type immune responses and granuloma function, thus leading to normal mycobacterial clearance in infected organs.
Animals, Chemokines/biosynthesis, Granuloma/immunology, Immunity, Cellular, Interferon-gamma/biosynthesis, Interleukin-12/biosynthesis, Interleukin-12 Subunit p40/biosynthesis, Interleukin-12 Subunit p40/immunology, Interleukin-23/biosynthesis, Liver Diseases/immunology, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Mycobacterium bovis/isolation & purification, Mycobacterium tuberculosis/isolation & purification, Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II/metabolism, Spleen/immunology, Th1 Cells/immunology, Th2 Cells/immunology, Tuberculosis/immunology, Tuberculosis/microbiology, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha/biosynthesis
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