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The protozoan Neospora caninum directly triggers bovine NK cells to produce gamma interferon and to kill infected fibroblasts

Boysen P, Klevar S, Olsen I, Storset AK. The protozoan Neospora caninum directly triggers bovine NK cells to produce gamma interferon and to kill infected fibroblasts. Infect Immun 2006; 74: 953-60.

Natural killer (NK) cells are considered to be key players in the early innate responses to protozoan infections, primarily indirectly by producing gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) in response to cytokines, like interleukin 12 (IL-12). We demonstrate that live, as well as heat-inactivated, tachyzoites of Neospora caninum, a Toxoplasma-like protozoan, directly trigger production of IFN-gamma from purified, IL-2-activated bovine NK cells. This response occurred independently of IL-12 but was increased by the addition of the cytokine. A similar IFN-gamma response was measured in cocultures of NK cells and N. caninum-infected autologous fibroblasts. However, no NK cell-derived IFN-gamma response was detected when cells were cultured with soluble antigens from the organism, indicating that intact tachyzoites or nonsoluble components are necessary for NK cell triggering. Furthermore, N. caninum-infected autologous fibroblasts had increased susceptibility to NK cell cytotoxicity compared to uninfected fibroblasts. This cytotoxicity was largely mediated by a perforin-mediated mechanism. The activating receptor NKp46 was involved in cytotoxicity against fibroblasts but could not explain the increased cytotoxicity against infected targets. Interestingly, N. caninum tachyzoites were able to infect cultured NK cells, in which tachyzoites proliferated inside parasitophorous vacuoles. Together, these findings underscore the role of NK cells as primary responders during a protozoan infection, describe intracellular protozoan infection of NK cells in vitro for the first time, and represent the first functional study of purified bovine NK cells in response to infection.

NVI authors

Klevar Siv

Forsker/ veterinær

Olsen Ingrid

Forsker