Background & aims: The integrin alpha(4)beta(7) mediates homing of effector/memory lymphocytes to the intestine and the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue. This study examined the ability of alpha(4)beta(7)(hi) CD4(+) T lymphocytes to home to the stomach and their role in immunization-mediated protection against Helicobacter felis infection.
Methods: Gastric lamina propria and circulating mononucleated cells of naive, infected, and immunized Swiss Webster mice were isolated, and alpha(4)beta(7)-integrin expression was quantified by flow cytometry on CD4(+) T lymphocytes. Anti-alpha(4)beta(7)-integrin antibody was used to block alpha(4)beta(7) function in vivo.
Results: In naive mice, alpha(4)beta(7)(hi) CD4(+) T cells were enriched approximately 10-fold in the gastric mucosa compared with peripheral blood (P<0.0001). Chronic H. felis infection did not alter these proportions, but oral immunization with H. felis sonicate plus cholera toxin (CT) or with CT alone markedly increased gastric alpha(4)beta(7)(hi) CD4(+) T cells compared with naive and infected controls (P = 0.0008 and P = 0.002 for H. felis sonicate and CT, respectively). Anti-alpha(4)beta(7)-integrin antibody blocked the protection induced by oral immunization with H. felis sonicate and CT.
Conclusions: The integrin alpha(4)beta(7) participates in the homing of CD4(+) T lymphocytes to the stomach and in the protection of the gastric mucosa against H. felis infection.