Clearance of disseminated Salmonella infection requires bacterial-specific Th1 cells and IFN-γ production, and Th1-promoting vaccines are likely to help control these infections. Consequently, vaccine design has focused on developing Th1-polarizing adjuvants or Ag that naturally induce Th1 responses. In this study, we show that, in mice, immunization with soluble, recombinant FliC protein flagellin (sFliC) induces Th2 responses as evidenced by Ag-specific GATA-3, IL-4 mRNA, and protein induction in CD62L(lo) CD4(+) T cells without associated IFN-γ production. Despite these Th2 features, sFliC immunization can enhance the development of protective Th1 immunity during subsequent Salmonella infection in an Ab-independent, T-cell-dependent manner. Salmonella infection in sFliC-immunized mice resulted in augmented Th1 responses, with greater bacterial clearance and increased numbers of IFN-γ-producing CD4(+) T cells, despite the early induction of Th2 features to sFliC. The augmented Th1 immunity after sFliC immunization was regulated by T-bet although T-bet is dispensable for primary responses to sFliC. These findings show that there can be flexibility in T-cell responses to some subunit vaccines. These vaccines may induce Th2-type immunity during primary immunization yet promote Th1-dependent responses during later infection. This suggests that designing Th1-inducing subunit vaccines may not always be necessary since this can occur naturally during subsequent infection.
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