Rhodococcus equi-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes in immune horses and development in asymptomatic foals

Infect Immun. 2005 Apr;73(4):2083-93. doi: 10.1128/IAI.73.4.2083-2093.2005.


Rhodococcus equi is an important cause of pneumonia in young horses; however, adult horses are immune due to their ability to mount protective recall responses. In this study, the hypothesis that R. equi-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are present in the lung of immune horses was tested. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)-derived pulmonary T lymphocytes stimulated with R. equi lysed infected alveolar macrophages and peripheral blood adherent cells (PBAC). As with CTL obtained from the blood, killing of R. equi-infected targets by pulmonary effectors was not restricted by equine lymphocyte alloantigen-A (ELA-A; classical major histocompatibility complex class I), suggesting a novel or nonclassical method of antigen presentation. To determine whether or not CTL activity coincided with the age-associated susceptibility to rhodococcal pneumonia, CTL were evaluated in foals. R. equi-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 3-week-old foals were unable to lyse either autologous perinatal or mismatched adult PBAC targets. The defect was not with the perinatal targets, as adult CTL effectors efficiently killed infected targets from 3-week-old foals. In contrast, significant CTL activity was present in three of five foals at 6 weeks of age, and significant specific lysis was induced by PBMC from all foals at 8 weeks of age. As with adults, lysis was ELA-A unrestricted. Two previously described monoclonal antibodies, BCD1b3 and CD1F2/1B12.1, were used to examine the expression of CD1, a nonclassical antigen-presenting molecule, on CTL targets. These antibodies cross-reacted with both foal and adult PBAC. However, neither antibody bound alveolar macrophages, suggesting that the R. equi-specific, major histocompatibility complex-unrestricted lysis is not restricted by a surface molecule identified by these antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales Infections / immunology
  • Actinomycetales Infections / veterinary*
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD1 / analysis
  • Horse Diseases / immunology*
  • Horses
  • Lung / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / veterinary*
  • Rhodococcus equi / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD1