Interferon-inducible CXC chemokines directly contribute to host defense against inhalational anthrax in a murine model of infection

PLoS Pathog. 2010 Nov 18;6(11):e1001199. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001199.


Chemokines have been found to exert direct, defensin-like antimicrobial activity in vitro, suggesting that, in addition to orchestrating cellular accumulation and activation, chemokines may contribute directly to the innate host response against infection. No observations have been made, however, demonstrating direct chemokine-mediated promotion of host defense in vivo. Here, we show that the murine interferon-inducible CXC chemokines CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11 each exert direct antimicrobial effects in vitro against Bacillus anthracis Sterne strain spores and bacilli including disruptions in spore germination and marked reductions in spore and bacilli viability as assessed using CFU determination and a fluorometric assay of metabolic activity. Similar chemokine-mediated antimicrobial activity was also observed against fully virulent Ames strain spores and encapsulated bacilli. Moreover, antibody-mediated neutralization of these CXC chemokines in vivo was found to significantly increase host susceptibility to pulmonary B. anthracis infection in a murine model of inhalational anthrax with disease progression characterized by systemic bacterial dissemination, toxemia, and host death. Neutralization of the shared chemokine receptor CXCR3, responsible for mediating cellular recruitment in response to CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11, was not found to increase host susceptibility to inhalational anthrax. Taken together, our data demonstrate a novel, receptor-independent antimicrobial role for the interferon-inducible CXC chemokines in pulmonary innate immunity in vivo. These data also support an immunomodulatory approach for effectively treating and/or preventing pulmonary B. anthracis infection, as well as infections caused by pathogenic and potentially, multi-drug resistant bacteria including other spore-forming organisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Anthrax / immunology*
  • Anthrax / microbiology
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacillus anthracis / drug effects*
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity
  • Chemokine CXCL10 / immunology*
  • Chemokine CXCL11 / immunology*
  • Chemokine CXCL9 / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Interferons / pharmacology*
  • Luminescence
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Spores, Bacterial / immunology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Chemokine CXCL10
  • Chemokine CXCL11
  • Chemokine CXCL9
  • Interferons