Background: The serine/threonine protein kinase C (PKC) theta has been firmly implicated in T cell-mediated immunity. Because its role in macrophages has remained undefined, we employed PKCtheta-deficient (PKCtheta (-/-)) mice in order to investigate if PKCtheta plays a role in macrophage-mediated immune responses during bacterial infections.
Results: Our results demonstrate that PKCtheta plays an important role in host defense against the Gram-negative, intracellular bacterium Salmonella typhimurium, as reflected both by markedly decreased survival and a significantly enhanced number of bacteria in spleen and liver of PKCtheta (-/-) mice, when compared to wild-type mice. Of note, albeit macrophages do not express detectable PKCtheta, PKCtheta mRNA expression was found to be profoundly upregulated during the first hours of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)/interferon-gamma (IFNgamma)-, but not IL-4-mediated cell polarization conditions in vitro. Mechanistically, despite expressing normal levels of classically activated macrophage (CAM) markers, PKCtheta-deficient CAMs expressed significantly higher levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in vivo and in vitro when challenged with S. typhimurium or LPS/IFNgamma. Neutralization of IL-10 recovered immune control to S. typhimurium infection in PKCtheta-deficient macrophages.
Conclusions: Taken together, our data provide genetic evidence that PKCtheta promotes a potent pro-inflammatory CAM phenotype that is instrumental to mounting protective anti-bacterial immunity. Mechanistically, PKCtheta exerts a host-protective role against S. typhimurium infection, and acts as an essential link between TLR4/IFNgammaR signaling and selective suppression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 at the onset of CAM differentiation in the course of a bacterial infection.
Keywords: IL-10; Innate immunity; Macrophage polarization; Protein kinase C theta; Salmonella typhimurium.