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1.  Early Double-Negative Thymocyte Export in Trypanosoma cruzi Infection Is Restricted by Sphingosine Receptors and Associated with Human Chagas Disease 
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is able to target the thymus and induce alterations of the thymic microenvironmental and lymphoid compartments. Acute infection results in severe atrophy of the organ and early release of immature thymocytes into the periphery. To date, the pathophysiological effects of thymic changes promoted by parasite-inducing premature release of thymocytes to the periphery has remained elusive. Herein, we show that sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), a potent mediator of T cell chemotaxis, plays a role in the exit of immature double-negative thymocytes in experimental Chagas disease. In thymuses from T. cruzi-infected mice we detected reduced transcription of the S1P kinase 1 and 2 genes related to S1P biosynthesis, together with increased transcription of the SGPL1 sphingosine-1-lyase gene, whose product inactivates S1P. These changes were associated with reduced intrathymic levels of S1P kinase activity. Interestingly, double-negative thymocytes from infected animals expressed high levels of the S1P receptor during infection, and migrated to lower levels of S1P. Moreover, during T. cruzi infection, this thymocyte subset expresses high levels of IL-17 and TNF-α cytokines upon polyclonal stimulation. In vivo treatment with the S1P receptor antagonist FTY720 resulted in recovery the numbers of double-negative thymocytes in infected thymuses to physiological levels. Finally, we showed increased numbers of double-negative T cells in the peripheral blood in severe cardiac forms of human Chagas disease.
Author Summary
The formation of mature lineage-committed T cells requires the specialized environment of the thymus, a central organ of the immune system supporting the development of self-tolerant T cells. Key events of intrathymic T-cell development include lineage commitment, selection events and thymic emigration. This organ undergoes physiological involution during aging. However, acute thymic atrophy can occur in the presence autoimmune diseases, malignant tumors and infections caused by intracellular pathogens. The present study shows that the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi changes the thymic microenvironmental and lymphoid compartments, resulting in premature release of very immature CD4−CD8− double-negative thymocytes, TCRneg/low, which bear a pro-inflammatory activation profile. Strikingly, we also found elevated levels of these undifferentiated T lymphocytes in the peripheral blood of patients in severe cardiac forms of chronic Chagas disease. Importantly, we provided evidence that migration of CD4−CD8− T cells from infected mouse thymus is due to sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor-1-dependent chemotaxis. These findings point to an important role for bioactive signaling sphingolipids in the thymic escape of immature thymocytes to the periphery in Chagas disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003203
PMCID: PMC4199546  PMID: 25330249
2.  The Influence of Sex Steroid Hormones in the Immunopathology of Experimental Pulmonary Tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93831.
The relation between men and women suffering pulmonary tuberculosis is 7/3 in favor to males. Sex hormones could be a significant factor for this difference, considering that testosterone impairs macrophage activation and pro-inflammatory cytokines production, while estrogens are proinflammatory mediator’s inducer. The aim of this work was to compare the evolution of tuberculosis in male and female mice using a model of progressive disease. BALB/c mice, male and female were randomized into two groups: castrated or sham-operated, and infected by the intratracheal route with a high dose of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain H37Rv. Mice were euthanized at different time points and in their lungs were determined bacilli loads, inflammation, cytokines expression, survival and testosterone levels in serum. Non-castrated male mice showed significant higher mortality and bacilli burdens during late disease than female and castrated male animals. Compared to males, females and castrated males exhibited significant higher inflammation in all lung compartments, earlier formation of granulomas and pneumonia, while between castrated and non-castrated females there were not significant differences. Females and castrated males expressed significant higher TNF-α, IFN γ, IL12, iNOS and IL17 than non-castrated males during the first month of infection. Serum Testosterone of males showed higher concentration during late infection. Orchidectomy at day 60 post-infection produced a significant decrease of bacilli burdens in coexistence with higher expression of TNFα, IL-12 and IFNγ. Thus, male mice are more susceptible to tuberculosis than females and this was prevented by castration suggesting that testosterone could be a tuberculosis susceptibility factor.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093831
PMCID: PMC3983091  PMID: 24722144
4.  Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Regulates Glucocorticoid Synthesis in the Adrenal Glands of Trypanosoma cruzi Acutely-Infected Mice. The Role of TNF-R1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63814.
Adrenal steroidogenesis is under a complex regulation involving extrinsic and intrinsic adrenal factors. TNF-α is an inflammatory cytokine produced in response to tissue injury and several other stimuli. We have previously demonstrated that TNF-R1 knockout (TNF-R1−/−) mice have a dysregulated synthesis of glucocorticoids (GCs) during Trypanosoma cruzi acute infection. Since TNF-α may influence GCs production, not only through the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, but also at the adrenal level, we now investigated the role of this cytokine on the adrenal GCs production. Wild type (WT) and TNF-R1−/− mice undergoing acute infection (Tc-WT and Tc-TNF-R1−/− groups), displayed adrenal hyperplasia together with increased GCs levels. Notably, systemic ACTH remained unchanged in Tc-WT and Tc-TNF-R1−/− compared with uninfected mice, suggesting some degree of ACTH-independence of GCs synthesis. TNF-α expression was increased within the adrenal gland from both infected mouse groups, with Tc-WT mice showing an augmented TNF-R1 expression. Tc-WT mice showed increased levels of P-p38 and P-ERK compared to uninfected WT animals, whereas Tc-TNF-R1−/− mice had increased p38 and JNK phosphorylation respect to Tc-WT mice. Strikingly, adrenal NF-κB and AP-1 activation during infection was blunted in Tc-TNF-R1−/− mice. The accumulation of mRNAs for steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and cytochrome P450 were significantly increased in both Tc-WT and Tc-TNF-R1−/− mice; being much more augmented in the latter group, which also had remarkably increased GCs levels. TNF-α emerges as a potent modulator of steroidogenesis in adrenocortical cells during T. cruzi infection in which MAPK pathways, NF-κB and AP-1 seem to play a role in the adrenal synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes regulating GCs synthesis. These results suggest the existence of an intrinsic immune-adrenal interaction involved in the dysregulated synthesis of GCs during murine Chagas disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063814
PMCID: PMC3661674  PMID: 23717489
5.  Humoral Immune Response against P2β from Trypanosoma cruzi in Persons with Chronic Chagas Disease: Its Relationship with Treatment Against Parasites and Myocardial Damage 
We investigated the relationship between potentially pathogenic antibodies against a Trypanosoma cruzi ribosomal protein (P2β) and the evolution of Chagas disease and the effect of trypanocidal treatment on these variables. Seventy-eight patients with chronic Chagas disease who were followed-up for more than 20 years were divided into three groups: 30 asymptomatic persons undergoing specific treatment (group A), 37 asymptomatic persons not undergoing specific treatment (group B), and 11 patients with chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy (CCC) who were not treated. Five patients in group B showed evolution to myocardial abnormalities. Among persons with CCC, six showed no changes; the remaining persons showed progression of cardiac involvement. Levels of antibodies to P2β in persons in group A decreased from their initial values. This finding was not observed in persons in groups B and C. Comparisons at the end of the follow-up showed lower amounts of antibodies to P2β in groups A and C. These findings support the benefits of specific treatment during chronic infection.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2011.10-0261
PMCID: PMC3062452  PMID: 21460013
6.  TNF-α Is Involved in the Abnormal Thymocyte Migration during Experimental Trypanosoma cruzi Infection and Favors the Export of Immature Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34360.
Previous studies revealed a significant production of inflammatory cytokines together with severe thymic atrophy and thymocyte migratory disturbances during experimental Chagas disease. Migratory activity of thymocytes and mature T cells seem to be finely tuned by cytokines, chemokines and extracellular matrix (ECM) components. Systemic TNF-α is enhanced during infection and appears to be crucial in the response against the parasite. However, it also seems to be involved in disease pathology, since it is implicated in the arrival of T cells to effector sites, including the myocardium. Herein, we analyzed the role of TNF-α in the migratory activity of thymocytes in Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) acutely-infected mice. We found increased expression and deposition of TNF-α in the thymus of infected animals compared to controls, accompanied by increased co-localization of fibronectin, a cell migration-related ECM molecule, whose contents in the thymus of infected mice is also augmented. In-vivo studies showed an enhanced export of thymocytes in T. cruzi-infected mice, as ascertained by intrathymic injection of FITC alone or in combination with TNF-α. The increase of immature CD4+CD8+ T cells in secondary lymphoid organs was even more clear-cut when TNF-α was co-injected with FITC. Ex-vivo transmigration assays also revealed higher number of migrating cells when TNF-α was added onto fibronectin lattices, with higher input of all thymocyte subsets, including immature CD4+CD8+. Infected animals also exhibit enhanced levels of expression of both mRNA TNF-α receptors in the CD4+CD8+ subpopulation. Our findings suggest that in T. cruzi acute infection, when TNF-α is complexed with fibronectin, it favours the altered migration of thymocytes, promoting the release of mature and immature T cells to different compartments of the immune system. Conceptually, this work reinforces the notion that thymocyte migration is a multivectorial biological event in health and disease, and that TNF-α is a further player in the process.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034360
PMCID: PMC3312912  PMID: 22461911
7.  Dynamics of Adrenal Steroids Are Related to Variations in Th1 and Treg Populations during Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection in HIV Positive Persons 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33061.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains the most frequent cause of illness and death from an infectious agent, and its interaction with HIV has devastating effects. We determined plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), its circulating form DHEA-suphate (DHEA-s) and cortisol in different stages of M. tuberculosis infection, and explored their role on the Th1 and Treg populations during different scenarios of HIV-TB coinfection, including the immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a condition related to antiretroviral treatment. DHEA levels were diminished in HIV-TB and HIV-TB IRIS patients compared to healthy donors (HD), HIV+ individuals and HIV+ individuals with latent TB (HIV-LTB), whereas dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-s) levels were markedly diminished in HIV-TB IRIS individuals. HIV-TB and IRIS patients presented a cortisol/DHEA ratio significantly higher than HIV+, HIV-LTB and HD individuals. A positive correlation was observed between DHEA-s and CD4 count among HIV-TB individuals. Conversely, cortisol plasma level inversely correlated with CD4 count within HIV-TB individuals. M. tuberculosis-specific Th1 lymphocyte count was increased after culturing PBMC from HIV-TB individuals in presence of DHEA. We observed an inverse correlation between DHEA-s plasma level and Treg frequency in co-infected individuals, and CD4+FoxP3+ Treg frequency was increased in HIV-TB and IRIS patients compared to other groups. Strikingly, we observed a prominent CD4+CD25-FoxP3+ population across HIV-TB and HIV-TB IRIS patients, which frequency correlated with DHEA plasma level. Finally, DHEA treatment negatively regulated FoxP3 expression without altering Treg frequency in co-infected patients. These data suggest an enhancing role for DHEA in the immune response against M. tuberculosis during HIV-TB coinfection and IRIS.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033061
PMCID: PMC3303789  PMID: 22431997
8.  Immunological Identification of Trypanosoma cruzi Lineages in Human Infection Along the Endemic Area 
Genotyping studies show a polarized geographic distribution of Trypanosoma cruzi lineages in humans. Here, we assessed their distribution along Latin America through an immunological approach we designated Western blot (WB) assay with Trypomastigote small-surface antigen (TSSA) I and TSSA II (TSSA-WB). These antigens are expressed by T. cruzi I (TCI; now TcI) and T. cruzi II (TCII; reclassified as TcII to TcVI) parasites. TSSA-WB showed good concordance with genotyping tests. An unexpected frequency of TSSA II recognition was observed in Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico (northern region of Latin America). In Argentina and Paraguay (southern region), immunophenotyping confirmed the already reported TCII (TcII to TcVI) dominance. The lineage distribution between these regions showed significant difference but not among countries within them (except for Colombia and Venezuela). TSSA-WB shows TCII emergence in the northern region where TCI was reported as dominant or even as the unique T. cruzi lineage infecting humans.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2011.10-0177
PMCID: PMC3005503  PMID: 21212206
9.  A Multifaceted Analysis of Immune-Endocrine-Metabolic Alterations in Patients with Pulmonary Tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26363.
Our study investigated the circulating levels of factors involved in immune-inflammatory-endocrine-metabolic responses in patients with tuberculosis with the aim of uncovering a relation between certain immune and hormonal patterns, their clinical status and in vitro immune response. The concentration of leptin, adiponectin, IL-6, IL-1β, ghrelin, C-reactive protein (CRP), cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and the in vitro immune response (lymphoproliferation and IFN-γ production) was evaluated in 53 patients with active untreated tuberculosis, 27 household contacts and 25 healthy controls, without significant age- or sex-related differences. Patients had a lower body mass index (BMI), reduced levels of leptin and DHEA, and increased concentrations of CRP, IL-6, cortisol, IL-1β and nearly significant adiponectin values than household contacts and controls. Within tuberculosis patients the BMI and leptin levels were positively correlated and decreased with increasing disease severity, whereas higher concentrations of IL-6, CRP, IL-1β, cortisol, and ghrelin were seen in cases with moderate to severe tuberculosis. Household contacts had lower DHEA and higher IL-6 levels than controls. Group classification by means of discriminant analysis and the k-nearest neighbor method showed that tuberculosis patients were clearly different from the other groups, having higher levels of CRP and lower DHEA concentration and BMI. Furthermore, plasma leptin levels were positively associated with the basal in vitro IFN-γ production and the ConA-driven proliferation of cells from tuberculosis patients. Present alterations in the communication between the neuro-endocrine and immune systems in tuberculosis may contribute to disease worsening.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026363
PMCID: PMC3192801  PMID: 22022605
10.  Chagasic Thymic Atrophy Does Not Affect Negative Selection but Results in the Export of Activated CD4+CD8+ T Cells in Severe Forms of Human Disease 
Extrathymic CD4+CD8+ double-positive (DP) T cells are increased in some pathophysiological conditions, including infectious diseases. In the murine model of Chagas disease, it has been shown that the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is able to target the thymus and induce alterations of the thymic microenvironment and the lymphoid compartment. In the acute phase, this results in a severe atrophy of the organ and early release of DP cells into the periphery. To date, the effect of the changes promoted by the parasite infection on thymic central tolerance has remained elusive. Herein we show that the intrathymic key elements that are necessary to promote the negative selection of thymocytes undergoing maturation during the thymopoiesis remains functional during the acute chagasic thymic atrophy. Intrathymic expression of the autoimmune regulator factor (Aire) and tissue-restricted antigen (TRA) genes is normal. In addition, the expression of the proapoptotic Bim protein in thymocytes was not changed, revealing that the parasite infection-induced thymus atrophy has no effect on these marker genes necessary to promote clonal deletion of T cells. In a chicken egg ovalbumin (OVA)-specific T-cell receptor (TCR) transgenic system, the administration of OVA peptide into infected mice with thymic atrophy promoted OVA-specific thymocyte apoptosis, further indicating normal negative selection process during the infection. Yet, although the intrathymic checkpoints necessary for thymic negative selection are present in the acute phase of Chagas disease, we found that the DP cells released into the periphery acquire an activated phenotype similar to what is described for activated effector or memory single-positive T cells. Most interestingly, we also demonstrate that increased percentages of peripheral blood subset of DP cells exhibiting an activated HLA-DR+ phenotype are associated with severe cardiac forms of human chronic Chagas disease. These cells may contribute to the immunopathological events seen in the Chagas disease.
Author Summary
The thymus is a primary lymphoid organ that plays an important role on the development of the immune system and maturation of the T cell repertoire. During the normal life span, this organ undergoes involution during the aging and also in the presence of a wide variety of infectious diseases. It has been shown that the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is able to target the thymus and induce alterations of the thymic microenvironment. In the acute phase, this results in a severe atrophy of the organ and early release of immature double-positive (DP) T cells into the periphery. The effect of the changes promoted by the parasite infection on thymic central tolerance has remained not clear. The present study shows that the intrathymic key elements that promote the negative selection of thymocytes during the thymopoiesis remains functional in the acute chagasic thymic atrophy. However, we found that the DP cells released into the periphery acquire an activated phenotype and its high frequency in the peripheral blood are associated with severe cardiac forms of human chronic Chagas disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001268
PMCID: PMC3156684  PMID: 21858238

Results 1-10 (10)