Role of intraepithelial lymphocytes in mucosal immune responses of mice experimentally infected with Cryptosporidium parvum

J Parasitol. 1999 Apr;85(2):234-9.


In order to investigate the role of intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) in host defense against Cryptosporidium parvum infection, conventionally bred immunocompetent (ImCT) ICR mice and immunosuppressed (ImSP) littermates were infected orally with 10(6) C. parvum oocysts. Then fecal oocyst excretion, the number and location of IELs, and their T lymphocyte subsets were observed on days 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20 postinfection (PI). Uninfected ImCT and ImSP mice were used as controls. The starting point of oocyst excretion was day 4 PI in both ImCT- and ImSP-infected mice. The highest oocyst excretion occurred on day 7 PI in both groups, though the number of oocysts excreted was 3 times greater in ImSP than in ImCT mice. In ImCT mice, IELs greatly increased in number on days 16 and 20 PI (P < 0.05), but the increase was minimal in ImSP mice. IELs changed their location from the basal area to intermediate and apical areas of villous epithelial cells during the early stage of infection. In ImCT-infected mice, IEL phenotypes also changed; whereas CD4+ cells increased temporarily on day 7 PI (P < 0.05), CD8+ cells increased significantly on days 16 and 20 PI (P < 0.05). The results strongly suggest that IELs play a significant role in host defense against C. parvum infection, with helper T cells initiating control of the infection and cytotoxic T cells eliminating the parasites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cryptosporidiosis / immunology*
  • Cryptosporidiosis / parasitology
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / growth & development
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / immunology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Immunocompetence
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*