Encephalitozoon cuniculi continues to pose a problem for immunocompromised patients. Previous studies from our laboratory have elucidated the importance of the CD8+ T cell subset in the protection against systemic parasite infection. There have been no studies related to the mucosal immunity induced against this orally acquired pathogen. In the present study, the immune response generated in the gut after oral E. cuniculi infection was evaluated. An early and rapid increase of the intraepithelial lymphocyte (IEL) population of orally infected animals was observed. This increase in the IEL population started as early as day 3 and peaked at day 7 postinfection with persistent elevation thereafter. At day 7 postinfection, IELs expressed strong cytokine messages (IFN-γ and IL-10) and were highly cytotoxic for parasite-infected syngeneic macrophages. At an E:T ratio of 80:1, these cells were able to cause >60% Ag-specific target cell lysis. A significant increase in the CD8αα subset of IEL in response to an oral E. cuniculi infection was observed. To the best of our knowledge, such an early expansion of an IEL population exhibiting strong ex vivo cytotoxicity has not been reported with infectious models. These data suggest that IELs act as important barriers for multiplication of this organism leading to the successful resolution of infection. The protective role of IELs may be due both to their inflammatory (IFN-γ production and cytotoxic response) as well as immunoregulatory (IL-10 production) properties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy