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Interleukin 12 (IL-12) Is Crucial To The Development Of Protective Immunity In Mice Intravenously Infected With Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

Andrea M. Cooper, Jeanne Magram, Jessica Ferrante, Ian M. Orme

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Immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is associated with the emergence of protective CD4 T cells that secrete cytokines, resulting in activation of macrophages and the recruitment of monocytes to initiate granuloma formation. The cytokine-mediating macrophage activation is interferon-γ (IFN-γ), which is largely dependent on interleukin-12 (IL-12) for its induction. To address the role of IL-12 in immunity to tuberculosis, IL-12 p40−/− mice were infected with M. tuberculosis and their capacity to control bacterial growth and other characteristics of their immune response were determined. The IL-12 p40−/− mice were unable to control bacterial growth and this appeared to be linked to the absence of both innate and acquired sources of IFN-γ. T cell activation as measured by delayed type hypersensitivity and lymphocyte accumulation at the site of infection were both markedly reduced in the IL-12 p40−/− mice. Therefore, IL-12 is essential to the generation of a protective immune response to M. tuberculosis, with its main functions being the induction of the expression of IFN-γ and the activation of antigen-specific lymphocytes capable of creating a protective granuloma.