Foxp3 + T Regulatory Cells as a Potential Target for Immunotherapy Against Primary Infection With Echinococcus Multilocularis Eggs

Infect Immun. 2018 Sep 21;86(10):e00542-18. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00542-18. Print 2018 Oct.


Alveolar echinococcosis (AE) is a lethal disease caused by infection with the metacestode stage of the helminth Echinococcus multilocularis, which develops into a tumorlike mass in susceptible intermediate hosts. The growth potential of this parasite stage is directly linked to the nature of the surrounding periparasitic immune-mediated processes. In a first step (experiment 1), mice were orally infected with E. multilocularis eggs, to be used for assessing the hepatic expression profiles of 15 selected cytokine and chemokine genes related to acquired immunity from 21 to 120 days postinfection. The early stage of infection in immunocompetent animals was marked by a mixed Th1/Th2 immune response, as characterized by the concomitant presence of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) and their related chemokines. At the late stage of AE, the profile extended to a combined tolerogenic mode including Foxp3, IL-10, and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) as key components. In a second step (experiment 2), the effect of T regulatory cell (Treg) deficiency on metacestode growth was assessed in E. multilocularis-infected DEREG (depletion of regulatory T cells) mice upon induction of Treg deficiency with diphtheria toxin (DT). The parasite lesions were significantly smaller in the livers of treated mice than in corresponding control groups. Foxp3+ Tregs appear to be one of the key players in immune-regulatory processes favoring metacestode survival by affecting antigen presentation and suppressing Th1-type immune responses. For these reasons, we suggest that affecting Foxp3+ Tregs could offer an attractive target in the development of an immunotherapy against AE.

Keywords: Th1 immunity; Treg deficiency; alveolar echinococcosis; oral infection; regulatory T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemokines / genetics
  • Chemokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Echinococcosis / immunology*
  • Echinococcosis / parasitology
  • Echinococcosis / therapy*
  • Echinococcus multilocularis / genetics
  • Echinococcus multilocularis / immunology*
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / genetics
  • Interleukin-4 / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Ovum / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma