The Microbiota Contributes to CD8+ T Cell Activation and Nutrient Malabsorption following Intestinal Infection with Giardia duodenalis

Infect Immun. 2016 Sep 19;84(10):2853-60. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00348-16. Print 2016 Oct.


Giardia duodenalis is a noninvasive luminal pathogen that impairs digestive function in its host in part by reducing intestinal disaccharidase activity. This enzyme deficiency has been shown in mice to require CD8(+) T cells. We recently showed that both host immune responses and parasite strain affected disaccharidase levels during murine giardiasis. However, high doses of antibiotics were used to facilitate infections in that study, and we therefore decided to systematically examine the effects of antibiotic use on pathogenesis and immune responses in the mouse model of giardiasis. We found that antibiotic treatment did not overtly increase the parasite burden but significantly limited the disaccharidase deficiency observed in infected mice. Moreover, while infected mice had more activated CD8(+) αβ T cells in the small intestinal lamina propria, this increase was absent in antibiotic-treated mice. Infection also led to increased numbers of CD4(+) αβ T cells in the lamina propria and activation of T cell receptor γδ-expressing intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL), but these changes were not affected by antibiotics. Finally, we show that activated CD8(+) T cells express gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and granzymes but that granzymes are not required for sucrase deficiency. We conclude that CD8(+) T cells become activated in giardiasis through an antibiotic-sensitive process and contribute to reduced sucrase activity. These are the first data directly demonstrating activation of CD8(+) T cells and γδ T cells during Giardia infections. These data also demonstrate that disruption of the intestinal microbiota by antibiotic treatment prevents pathological CD8(+) T cell activation in giardiasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Disaccharidases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Giardia lamblia / immunology*
  • Giardiasis / drug therapy
  • Giardiasis / immunology*
  • Giardiasis / microbiology
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Intestine, Small / immunology
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microbiota / physiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Disaccharidases