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1.  Immunization with Ehrlichia P28 Outer Membrane Proteins Confers Protection in a Mouse Model of Ehrlichiosis▿ 
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology : CVI  2011;18(12):2018-2025.
The obligately intracellular bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis that resides in mononuclear phagocytes is the etiologic agent of human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME). HME is an emerging and often life-threatening, tick-transmitted infectious disease in the United States. Effective primary immune responses against Ehrlichia infection involve generation of Ehrlichia-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing CD4+ T cells and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, activation of macrophages by IFN-γ, and production of Ehrlichia-specific antibodies of the Th1 isotype. Currently, there are no vaccines available against HME. We evaluated the ability of 28-kDa outer membrane proteins (P28-OMP-1) of the closely related Ehrlichia muris to stimulate long-term protective memory T and B cell responses and confer protection in mice. The spleens of mice vaccinated with E. muris P28-9, P28-12, P28-19, or a mixture of these three P28 proteins (P28s) using a DNA prime-protein boost regimen and challenged with E. muris had significantly lower bacterial loads than the spleens of mock-vaccinated mice. Mice immunized with P28-9, P28-12, P28-19, or the mixture induced Ehrlichia-specific CD4+ Th1 cells. Interestingly, mice immunized with P28-14, orthologs of which in E. chaffeensis and E. canis are primarily expressed in tick cells, failed to lower the ehrlichial burden in the spleen. Immunization with the recombinant P28-19 protein alone also significantly decreased the bacterial load in the spleen and liver compared to those of the controls. Our study reports, for the first time, the protective roles of the Ehrlichia P28-9 and P28-12 proteins in addition to confirming previous reports of the protective ability of P28-19. Partial protection induced by immunization with P28-9, P28-12, and P28-19 against Ehrlichia was associated with the generation of Ehrlichia-specific cell-mediated and humoral immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3232687  PMID: 22030371
2.  Antigenic protein modifications in Ehrlichia 
Parasite immunology  2009;31(6):296-303.
To develop effective vaccination strategies against Ehrlichia, we have previously reported developing an animal model of cross-protection in which C57BL/6 mice primed with E. muris are resistant to lethal infection with Ixodes ovatus ehrlichia (IOE). Polyclonal antibody produced in mice after priming with E. muris and later injected with IOE detected antigenic proteins in E. muris and IOE cell lysates. Cross reaction of antigenic proteins were observed when we probed both E. muris and IOE cell lysates with IOE and E. muris specific polyclonal antibody. Analysis of the total proteins of E. muris and IOE by two dimensional electrophoresis showed that both E. muris and IOE have the same antigenic proteins. Finally, studies on post-translational protein modifications showed that E. muris proteins are more lipoylated and glycosylated than those of IOE.
PMCID: PMC2731653  PMID: 19493209
Ehrlichia; ehrlichiosis; IOE; antigen
3.  Persistent Infection Contributes to Heterologous Protective Immunity against Fatal Ehrlichiosis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(12):5682-5689.
Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME), an emerging and often life-threatening tick-transmitted disease, is caused by the obligately intracellular bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis. HME is modeled in C57BL/6 mice using Ehrlichia muris, which causes persistent infection, and Ixodes ovatus Ehrlichia (IOE), which is either acutely lethal or sublethal depending on the dose and route of inoculation. A persistent primary E. muris infection, but not a sublethal IOE infection, protects mice against an ordinarily lethal secondary IOE challenge. In the present study, we determined the role of persistent infection in maintenance of protective memory immune responses. E. muris-infected mice were treated with doxycycline or left untreated and then challenged with an ordinarily lethal dose of IOE. Compared to E. muris-primed mice treated with doxycycline, untreated mice persistently infected with E. muris had significantly greater numbers of antigen-specific gamma interferon-producing splenic memory T cells, significant expansion of CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory cells, and production of transforming growth factor β1 in the spleen. Importantly, E. muris-primed mice treated with doxycycline showed significantly greater susceptibility to challenge infection with IOE compared to untreated mice persistently infected with E. muris. The study indicated that persistent ehrlichial infection contributes to heterologous protection by stimulating the maintenance of memory T-cell responses.
PMCID: PMC2786466  PMID: 19805532
4.  CD4+ CD25+ Foxp3− T-Regulatory Cells Produce both Gamma Interferon and Interleukin-10 during Acute Severe Murine Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(9):3838-3849.
Spotted fever group rickettsiae cause life-threatening human infections worldwide. Until now, the immune regulatory mechanisms involved in fatal rickettsial infection have been unknown. C3H/HeN mice infected with 3 × 105 PFU of Rickettsia conorii developed an acute progressive disease, and all mice succumbed to this infection. A sublethal infection induced protective immunity, and mice survived. Compared to splenic T cells from sublethally infected mice, splenic T cells from lethally infected mice produced significantly lower levels of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and a higher level of IL-10, but not of IL-4 or transforming growth factor β, and there was markedly suppressed CD4+ T-cell proliferation in response to antigen-specific stimulation with R. conorii. Furthermore, lethal infection induced significant expansion of CD4+ CD25+ Foxp3− T cells in infected organs compared to the levels in naïve and sublethally infected mice. In a lethal infection, splenic CD4+ CD25+ Foxp3− T cells, which were CTLA-4high T-bet+ and secreted both IFN-γ and IL-10, suppressed the proliferation of and IL-2 production by splenic CD4+ CD25− Foxp3− T cells in vitro. Interestingly, depletion of CD25+ T cells in vivo did not change the disease progression, but it increased the bacterial load in the lung and liver, significantly reduced the number of IFN-γ-producing Th1 cells in the spleen, and increased the serum levels of IFN-γ. These results suggested that CD4+ CD25+ T cells generated in acute murine spotted fever rickettsiosis are Th1-cell-related adaptive T-regulatory cells, which substantially contribute to suppressing the systemic immune response, possibly by a mechanism involving IL-10 and/or cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4.
PMCID: PMC2738046  PMID: 19564386
5.  Protective Heterologous Immunity against Fatal Ehrlichiosis and Lack of Protection following Homologous Challenge▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(5):1920-1930.
The roles of antibodies and memory T cells in protection against virulent Ehrlichia have not been completely investigated. In this study, we addressed these issues by using murine models of mild and fatal ehrlichiosis caused by related monocytotropic Ehrlichia strains. Mice were primed with either Ehrlichia muris or closely related virulent ehrlichiae transmitted by Ixodes ovatus (IOE) ticks given intraperitoneally or intradermally. All groups were reinfected intraperitoneally, 30 days later, with a lethal high dose of IOE. Priming with E. muris, but not IOE, induced strong CD4+ and CD8+ memory type 1 T-cell responses, Ehrlichia-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, and persistent infection. Compared to IOE-primed mice, subsequent lethal IOE challenge of E. muris-primed mice, resulted in (i) 100% protection against lethal infection, (ii) strong Ehrlichia-specific secondary gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing effector/effector memory CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, (iii) enhanced secondary anti-ehrlichial antibody response, (iv) accelerated bacterial clearance, and (v) the formation of granulomas in the liver and lung. E. muris-primed mice challenged with IOE had lower levels of serum interleukin-1α (IL-1α), IL-6, and IL-10 compared to unprimed mice challenged with IOE. Interestingly, the fatal secondary response in IOE-primed mice correlated with (i) decline in the Ehrlichia-specific CD4+ and CD8+ type 1 responses, (ii) marked hepatic apoptosis and necrosis, and (iii) substantial bacterial clearance, suggesting that fatal secondary response is due to immune-mediated tissue damage. In conclusion, protection against fatal ehrlichial infection correlates with strong expansion of IFN-γ-producing CD4+ and CD8+ effector memory type 1 T cells, which appear to be maintained in the presence of IgG antibodies and persistent infection.
PMCID: PMC2346691  PMID: 18285501
6.  Relative Importance of T-Cell Subsets in Monocytotropic Ehrlichiosis: a Novel Effector Mechanism Involved in Ehrlichia-Induced Immunopathology in Murine Ehrlichiosis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(9):4608-4620.
Infection with gram-negative monocytotropic Ehrlichia strains results in a fatal toxic shock-like syndrome characterized by a decreased number of Ehrlichia-specific CD4+ Th1 cells, the expansion of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α)-producing CD8+ T cells, and the systemic overproduction of interleukin-10 (IL-10) and TNF-α. Here, we investigated the role of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in immunity to Ehrlichia and the pathogenesis of fatal ehrlichiosis caused by infection with low- and high-dose (103 and 105 bacterial genomes/mouse, respectively) ehrlichial inocula. The CD4+ T-cell-deficient mice showed exacerbated susceptibility to a lethal high- or low-dose infection and harbored higher bacterial numbers than did wild-type (WT) mice. Interestingly, the CD8+ T-cell-deficient mice were resistant to a low dose but succumbed to a high dose of Ehrlichia. The absence of CD8+ T cells abrogated TNF-α and IL-10 production, reduced tissue injury and bacterial burden, restored splenic CD4+ T-cell numbers, and increased the frequency of Ehrlichia-specific CD4+ Th1 cells in comparison to infected WT mice. Although fatal disease is perforin independent, our data suggested that perforin played a critical role in controlling bacterial burden and mediating liver injury. Similar to WT mice, mortality of infected perforin-deficient mice was associated with CD4+ T-cell apoptosis and a high serum concentration of IL-10. Depletion of IL-10 restored the number of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in infected WT mice. Our data demonstrate a novel mechanism of immunopathology in which CD8+ T cells mediate Ehrlichia-induced toxic shock, which is associated with IL-10 overproduction and CD4+ T-cell apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC1951155  PMID: 17562770
7.  Differential Interaction of Dendritic Cells with Rickettsia conorii: Impact on Host Susceptibility to Murine Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(6):3112-3123.
Spotted fever group rickettsioses are emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, some of which are life-threatening. In order to understand how dendritic cells (DCs) contribute to the host resistance or susceptibility to rickettsial diseases, we first characterized the in vitro interaction of rickettsiae with bone marrow-derived DCs (BMDCs) from resistant C57BL/6 (B6) and susceptible C3H/HeN (C3H) mice. In contrast to the exclusively cytosolic localization within endothelial cells, rickettsiae efficiently entered and localized in both phagosomes and cytosol of BMDCs from both mouse strains. Rickettsia conorii-infected BMDCs from resistant mice harbored higher bacterial loads compared to C3H mice. R. conorii infection induced maturation of BMDCs from both mouse strains as judged by upregulated expression of classical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and costimulatory molecules. Compared to C3H counterparts, B6 BMDCs exhibited higher expression levels of MHC class II and higher interleukin-12 (IL-12) p40 production upon rickettsial infection and were more potent in priming naïve CD4+ T cells to produce gamma interferon. In vitro DC infection and T-cell priming studies suggested a delayed CD4+ T-cell activation and suppressed Th1/Th2 cell development in C3H mice. The suppressive CD4+ T-cell responses seen in C3H mice were associated with a high frequency of Foxp3+ T regulatory cells promoted by syngeneic R. conorii-infected BMDCs in the presence of IL-2. These data suggest that rickettsiae can target DCs to stimulate a protective type 1 response in resistant hosts but suppressive adaptive immunity in susceptible hosts.
PMCID: PMC1932850  PMID: 17403875
8.  An Intradermal Environment Promotes a Protective Type-1 Response against Lethal Systemic Monocytotropic Ehrlichial Infection  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(8):4856-4864.
Immune responses against monocytotropic ehrlichiosis during infection with a strain of Ehrlichia from Ixodes ovatus (IOE) were evaluated using a model that closely reproduces the pathology and immunity associated with tick-transmitted human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis. C57BL/6 mice were inoculated intradermally or intraperitoneally with high-dose highly virulent IOE or intraperitoneally with mildly virulent Ehrlichia muris. Intradermal (i.d.) infection with IOE established mild, self-limited disease associated with minimal hepatic apoptosis, and all mice survived past 30 days. Intraperitoneal (i.p.) infection with IOE resulted in acute, severe toxic shock-like syndrome and severe multifocal hepatic apoptosis and necrosis, and all mice succumbed to disease. Compared to i.p. infection with IOE, intradermally infected mice had a 100- to 1,000-fold lower bacterial load in the spleen with limited dissemination. Compared to mice infected intraperitoneally with IOE, i.d. infection stimulated a stronger protective type-1 cell-mediated response on day 7 of infection, characterized by increased percentages of both CD4+ and CD8+ splenic T cells, generation of a greater number of IOE-specific, gamma interferon-producing CD4+ Th1 cells, and higher levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) in the spleen but lower concentrations of serum TNF-α and interleukin-10. These data suggest that under the conditions of natural route of challenge (i.e., i.d. inoculation), the immune response has the capacity to confer complete protection against monocytotropic ehrlichiosis, which is associated with a strong cell-mediated type-1 response and decreased systemic production of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
PMCID: PMC1539596  PMID: 16861674
9.  Role of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) and Interleukin-10 in the Pathogenesis of Severe Murine Monocytotropic Ehrlichiosis: Increased Resistance of TNF Receptor p55- and p75-Deficient Mice to Fatal Ehrlichial Infection  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(3):1846-1856.
Intraperitoneal (i.p.) infection with a high dose of a highly virulent Ehrlichia strain (IOE) results in a toxic shock-like syndrome characterized by severe liver injury and systemic overproduction of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) by CD8+ T cells. We examined the role of TNF-α and TNF receptors in high-dose-IOE-induced shock/liver injury. TNF receptor (TNFR) I/II−/− mice lacking both the p55 and p75 receptors for this cytokine were more resistant to IOE-induced liver injury than their wild-type background controls. TNFR I/II−/− mice survived longer, dying between 15 and 18 days, with evidence of mild liver necrosis/apoptosis. In contrast, wild-type mice were not rescued from the lethal effect of IOE by TNF-α neutralization. TNF-α-depleted mice developed severe liver injury and succumbed to disease between days 9 and 11 postinfection, similar to sham-treated, infected wild-type mice. Although IFN-γ production in the spleens of IOE-infected TNFR I/II−/− and TNF-α-depleted mice was higher than that detected in wild-type controls, these mice had higher bacterial burdens than infected controls. Following high-dose IOE challenge, TNFR I/II−/− and TNF-α-depleted mice have an early increase in IL-10 levels in sera and spleens, which was produced mainly by adherent spleen cells. In contrast, a late burst of interleukin-10 (IL-10) was observed in control mice. Nonadherent spleen cells were the major source of IL-10 in IOE-infected wild-type mice. We conclude that TNFR I/II and TNF-α participate in Ehrlichia-induced shock and host defense by regulating liver injury and controlling ehrlichial burden. Our data suggest that fatal ehrlichiosis could be a multistep process, where TNF-α is not solely responsible for mortality.
PMCID: PMC1418656  PMID: 16495559

Results 1-9 (9)