Caspase-2-dependent dendritic cell death, maturation, and priming of T cells in response to Brucella abortus infection

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43512. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043512. Epub 2012 Aug 22.


Smooth virulent Brucella abortus strain 2308 (S2308) causes zoonotic brucellosis in cattle and humans. Rough B. abortus strain RB51, derived from S2308, is a live attenuated cattle vaccine strain licensed in the USA and many other countries. Our previous report indicated that RB51, but not S2308, induces a caspase-2-dependent apoptotic and necrotic macrophage cell death. Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen presenting cells critical for bridging innate and adaptive immune responses. In contrast to Brucella-infected macrophages, here we report that S2308 induced higher levels of apoptotic and necrotic cell death in wild type bone marrow-derived DCs (WT BMDCs) than RB51. The RB51 and S2308-induced BMDC cell death was regulated by caspase-2, indicated by the minimal cell death in RB51 and S2308-infected BMDCs isolated from caspase-2 knockout mice (Casp2KO BMDCs). More S2308 bacteria were taken up by Casp2KO BMDCs than wild type BMDCs. Higher levels of S2308 and RB51 cells were found in infected Casp2KO BMDCs compared to infected WT BMDCs at different time points. RB51-infected wild type BMDCs were mature and activated as shown by significantly up-regulated expression of CD40, CD80, CD86, MHC-I, and MHC-II. RB51 induced the production of cytokines TNF-α, IL-6, IFN-γ and IL12/IL23p40 in infected BMDCs. RB51-infected WT BMDCs also stimulated the proliferation of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells compared to uninfected WT BMDCs. However, the maturation, activation, and cytokine secretion are significantly impaired in Casp2KO BMDCs infected with RB51 or Salmonella (control). S2308-infected WT and Casp2KO BMDCs were not activated and could not induce cytokine production. These results demonstrated that virulent smooth strain S2308 induced more apoptotic and necrotic dendritic cell death than live attenuated rough vaccine strain RB51; however, RB51, but not its parent strain S2308, induced caspase-2-mediated DC maturation, cytokine production, antigen presentation, and T cell priming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Brucella abortus / cytology
  • Brucella abortus / immunology
  • Brucella abortus / physiology*
  • Caspase 2 / metabolism*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Necrosis / immunology
  • Species Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / microbiology*
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Caspase 2

Grants and funding

These studies were supported by an Endowment for Basic Science (EBS) bridging fund from the University of Michigan to Y.H. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.