Inhibition of interleukin-2 by a Gram-positive bacterium, Streptococcus mutans

Immunology. 1998 Dec;95(4):522-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2567.1998.00631.x.


Generation of an effective cellular immune response is key to the successful development of both humoral and cellular immune defences against most pathogens. However, while the type of cellular immune response elicited by any given pathogen is dictated by the entire array of antigens and molecules which comprise that pathogen, most studies of human immune responses to bacterial pathogens tend to focus on selected antigens. This is a result, in part, of a desire to find those antigens that will generate a desired immune response, as well as limited technology for monitoring the complex array of responses generated by an intact organism. Utilizing Streptococcus mutans as a model Gram-positive organism, a novel flow cytometric assay that permits the identification of individual cells within a responding population, and highly sensitive cytokine assays, we show for the first time that CD8 T cells and natural killer (NK) cells comprise a significant component of the response to this organism in humans. This is despite the fact that CD8 T cells are traditionally thought to respond to endogenously derived antigens only. In addition, we provide the first evidence that a Gram-positive organism can actively inhibit interleukin-2 (IL-2), an important autocrine growth factor for T cells. The latter observation could represent an additional mechanism by which Gram-positive organisms evade host defences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Division
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Streptococcus mutans / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Interleukin-2