Natural regulatory (CD4+CD25+FOXP+) T cells control the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines during Plasmodium chabaudi adami infection and do not contribute to immune evasion

Int J Parasitol. 2008 Feb;38(2):229-38. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2007.07.006. Epub 2007 Jul 26.


Different functions have been attributed to natural regulatory CD4+CD25+FOXP+ (Treg) cells during malaria infection. Herein, we assessed the role for Treg cells during infections with lethal (DS) and non-lethal (DK) Plasmodium chabaudi adami parasites, comparing the levels of parasitemia, inflammation and anaemia. Independent of parasite virulence, the population of splenic Treg cells expanded during infection, and the absolute numbers of activated CD69+ Treg cells were higher in DS-infected mice. In vivo depletion of CD25+ T cells, which eliminated 80% of CD4+FOXP3+CD25+ T cells and 60-70% of CD4+FOXP3+ T cells, significantly decreased the number of CD69+ Treg cells in mice with lethal malaria. As a result, higher parasite burden and morbidity were measured in the latter, whereas the kinetics of infection with non-lethal parasites remained unaffected. In the absence of Treg cells, parasite-specific IFN-gamma responses by CD4+ T cells increased significantly, both in mice with lethal and non-lethal infections, whereas IL-2 production was only stimulated in mice with non-lethal malaria. Following the depletion of CD25+ T cells, the production of IL-10 by CD90(-) cells was also enhanced in infected mice. Interestingly, a potent induction of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma production by CD4+ and CD90(-) lymphocytes was measured in DS-infected mice, which also suffered severe anaemia earlier than non-depleted infected controls. Taken together, our data suggest that the expansion and activation of natural Treg cells represent a counter-regulatory response to the overwhelming inflammation associated with lethal P.c. adami. This response to infection involves TH1 lymphocytes as well as cells from the innate immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / parasitology
  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cytokines / analysis*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Immunosuppression
  • Interferon-gamma / analysis
  • Interleukin-1 / analysis
  • Interleukin-10 / analysis
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Depletion
  • Malaria / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Parasitemia / immunology
  • Plasmodium chabaudi*
  • Repressor Proteins / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / analysis


  • Cytokines
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp1 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interferon-gamma