Key role of Toll-like receptor 2 in the inflammatory response and major histocompatibility complex class ii downregulation in Brucella abortus-infected alveolar macrophages

Infect Immun. 2014 Feb;82(2):626-39. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01237-13. Epub 2013 Nov 25.


Alveolar macrophages (AM) seem to constitute the main cellular target of inhaled brucellae. Here, we show that Brucella abortus invades and replicates in murine AM without inducing cytotoxicity. B. abortus infection induced a statistically significant increase of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), CXCL1 or keratinocyte chemoattractant (KC), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and IL-12 in AM from C57BL/6 mice and BALB/c mice, but these responses were generally weaker and/or delayed compared to those elicited in peritoneal macrophages. Studies using knockout mice for TLR2, TLR4, and TLR9 revealed that TNF-α and KC responses were mediated by TLR2 recognition. Brucella infection reduced in a multiplicity of infection-dependent manner the expression of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) molecules induced by gamma interferon (IFN-γ) in AM. The same phenomenon was induced by incubation with heat-killed B. abortus (HKBA) or the lipidated form of the 19-kDa outer membrane protein of Brucella (L-Omp19), and it was shown to be mediated by TLR2 recognition. In contrast, no significant downregulation of MHC-II was induced by either unlipidated Omp19 or Brucella LPS. In a functional assay, treatment of AM with either L-Omp19 or HKBA reduced the MHC-II-restricted presentation of OVA peptides to specific T cells. One week after intratracheal infection, viable B. abortus was detected in AM from both wild-type and TLR2 KO mice, but CFU counts were higher in the latter. These results suggest that B. abortus survives in AM after inhalatory infection in spite of a certain degree of immune control exerted by the TLR2-mediated inflammatory response. Both the modest nature of the latter and the modulation of MHC-II expression by the bacterium may contribute to such survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brucella abortus / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / biosynthesis*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Immune Evasion
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / microbiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microbial Viability
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2