The innate immune response against Brucella in humans

Vet Microbiol. 2002 Dec 20;90(1-4):383-94. doi: 10.1016/s0378-1135(02)00223-7.


Pathogens have developed different strategies to survive and multiply within their host. Among them is the ability to control phagocyte apoptosis while another is to affect the expression of cytokines which is necessary for a normal protective function of the immune response. To establish themselves and cause chronic disease in humans and animals, Brucella spp. invade and proliferate within monocytic phagocytes. We have established that in humans, Brucella suis impairs the apoptosis of monocytes and macrophages, thus preventing its host cell elimination. In mice, which are not naturally colonized by the bacteria, Brucella infection results in Type1 (Th1) cellular immune response which promotes a clearance of the bacterial organism. The development of this response is under the control of major cytokines like TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma and IL-12 produced at the onset of infection. We have observed that in humans, B. suis-infected macrophages which produce IL-1, IL-6, IL-10 and several chemokines including IL-8, do not secrete TNF-alpha. By constructing null mutants, we demonstrated that this inhibition involves the outer membrane protein Omp25 of Brucella, however the mechanism regulating the inhibition has not yet been clearly defined. It is likely that the Omp25-induced effect on TNF-alpha production assists bacterial evasion of antimicrobial defences at different levels. Firstly, by preventing the autocrine activation of macrophages thus inhibiting innate immunity and secondly by impairing the production of IL-12 and the development of a Th1 type specific immunity. In addition to the central role of the macrophage in Brucella infection, others cells of the innate immune response are recruited and influenced by the interactions between bacteria and host. For instance, human Vgamma9Vdelta2 T-cells play an important role in the early response to infection with intracellular pathogens. Evidence has been presented that their number dramatically increased in the peripheral blood of patients with acute brucellosis. We have shown that human Vgamma9Vdelta2 T-cells can be specifically activated by non-peptidic low molecular weight compound(s) from B. suis lysate or by soluble factors produced by B. suis-infected macrophages. Under these conditions, they produce TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma and reduce the bacterial multiplication inside infected autologous macrophages. This impairment of B. suis multiplication is due to both soluble factors released from activated gammadeltaT-cells (including TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma) and to a contact-dependent cytotoxicity directed against the infected cells. The interactions between the bacteria and these cells can counteract the intramacrophagic development of the bacteria and finally influence the further development of the host defense. We hypothesize that the chronicity or the elimination of the infection will depend on the balance between contradictory effects induced by the bacteria which favor either the host or the pathogen. Moreover, the interrelationship between the different cells must be taken into account in the analysis of the virulence of the bacteria and in the development of in vitro models of human macrophage infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Brucella / growth & development
  • Brucella / immunology*
  • Brucella / pathogenicity
  • Brucella suis / immunology
  • Brucellosis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Mice
  • Monocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Virulence