Mucosal immunity to gastrointestinal pathogens in early life has been studied only slightly. Recently, we developed an infection model in murine neonates using the gastroenteric pathogen Yersinia enterocolitica. Here, we report that oral infection of neonatal mice with low doses of virulent Y. enterocolitica leads to vigorous intestinal and systemic adaptive immunity. Y. enterocolitica infection promoted the development of anti-LcrV memory serum IgG1 and IgG2a responses of comparable affinity and magnitude to adult responses. Strikingly, neonatal mesenteric lymph node CD4+ T cells produced Yersinia-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and interleukin-17A (IL-17A), exceeding adult levels. The robust T- and B-cell responses elicited in neonates exposed to Y. enterocolitica were associated with long-term protection against mucosal challenge with this pathogen. Using genetically deficient mice, we found that IFN-γ and CD4+ cells, but not B cells, are critical for protection of neonates during primary Y. enterocolitica infection. In contrast, adults infected with low bacterial doses did not require either cell population for protection. CD4-deficient neonatal mice adoptively transferred with CD4 + cells from wild-type, IFN-γ-deficient, or IL-17AF-deficient mice were equally protected from infection. These data demonstrate that inflammatory CD4+ T cells are required for protection of neonatal mice and that this protection may not require CD4-derived IFN-γ, IL-17A, or IL-17F. Overall, these studies support the idea that Y. enterocolitica promotes the development of highly inflammatory mucosal responses in neonates and that intestinal T-cell function may be a key immune component in protection from gastrointestinal pathogens in early life.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases