Diverse myeloid and lymphoid cell subpopulations produce gamma interferon during early innate immune responses to Francisella tularensis live vaccine strain

Infect Immun. 2008 Sep;76(9):4311-21. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00514-08. Epub 2008 Jun 23.


Francisella tularensis, a small gram-negative intracellular bacterium responsible for causing tularemia, is highly pathogenic and classified as a category A agent of bioterrorism. As for other intracellular pathogens, successful protective immune responses to Francisella tularensis require rapid and efficient induction of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) production. Studies using intracellular bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes as well as Francisella suggest that natural killer (NK) and T cells are important sources of IFN-gamma. However, comprehensive characterization of specific sources of IFN-gamma produced during Francisella infection in vivo remains incomplete, and depletion of NK cells before infection of mice with the F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS) has little impact on the course or outcome of infection. In this study, we determined the cell subpopulations that respond quickly to intradermal F. tularensis LVS infection of mice by producing IFN-gamma within hours to a few days. Splenic and liver lymphocytes were obtained from LVS-infected mice and analyzed for IFN-gamma mRNA by reverse transcription-PCR, for intracellular cytokine expression by multiparameter flow cytometry, and for ex vivo production of IFN-gamma protein by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cells producing IFN-gamma were readily detectable by day 3 after infection, and numbers progressively increased through days 5 to 7. Importantly, the cell types responsible for IFN-gamma production were much more varied than expected: these included not only NK cells and T cells, which might be predicted, but also other cells, including dendritic cells (DCs), "NK DCs," NK T cells, and neutrophils. Most importantly, since RAG-1 knockout mice appeared to exhibit a frequency of IFN-gamma-producing cells comparable to that of intact wild-type mice, early IFN-gamma production by innate immune cells does not depend on the presence of T or B cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Francisella tularensis / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / immunology
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Liver / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spleen / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RAG-1 protein
  • Interferon-gamma