Temporal delay of peak T-cell immunity determines Chlamydia pneumoniae pulmonary disease in mice

Infect Immun. 2008 Nov;76(11):4913-23. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00569-08. Epub 2008 Aug 25.


Severe chlamydial disease typically occurs after previous infections and results from a hypersensitivity response that is also required for chlamydial elimination. Here, we quantitatively dissected the immune and disease responses to repeated Chlamydia pneumoniae lung infection by multivariate modeling with four dichotomous effects: mouse strain (A/J or C57BL/6), dietary protein content (14% protein and 0.3% L-cysteine-0.9% L-arginine, or 24% protein and 0.5% L-cysteine-2.0% L-arginine), dietary antioxidant content (90 IU alpha-tocopherol/kg body weight versus 450 IU alpha-tocopherol/kg and 0.1% g L-ascorbate), and time course (3 or 10 days postinfection). Following intranasal C. pneumoniae challenge, C57BL/6 mice on a low-protein/low-antioxidant diet, but not C57BL/6 mice on other diets or A/J mice, exhibited profoundly suppressed early lung inflammatory and pan-T-cell (CD3delta(+)) and helper T-cell (CD45) responses on day 3 but later strongly exacerbated disease on day 10. Contrast analyses characterized severe C. pneumoniae disease as being a delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response with increased lung macrophage and Th1 cell marker transcripts, increased Th1:Th2 ratios, and Th1 cytokine-driven inflammation. Results from functional analyses by DTH, enzyme-linked immunospot, and immunohistofluorescence assays were consistent with the results obtained by transcript analysis. Thus, chlamydial disease after secondary infection is a temporal dysregulation of the T-cell response characterized by a profoundly delayed T-helper cell response that results in a failure to eliminate the pathogen and provokes later pathological Th1 inflammation. This delayed T-cell response is under host genetic control and nutritional influence. The mechanism that temporally and quantitatively regulates the host T-cell population is the critical determinant in chlamydial pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Chlamydophila Infections / genetics*
  • Chlamydophila Infections / immunology*
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Malnutrition
  • Mice
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Time


  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Proteins