Helminth-induced interleukin-4 abrogates invariant natural killer T cell activation-associated clearance of bacterial infection

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Infection and Immunity








Helminth infections affect 1 billion people worldwide and render these individuals susceptible to bacterial coinfection through incompletely understood mechanisms. This includes urinary tract coinfection by bacteria and Schistosoma haematobium worms, the etiologic agent of urogenital schistosomiasis. To study the mechanisms of S. haematobium-bacterial urinary tract coinfections, we combined the first tractable model of urogenital schistosomiasis with an established mouse model of bacterial urinary tract infection (UTI). A single bladder exposure to S. haematobium eggs triggers interleukin-4 (IL-4) production and makes BALB/c mice susceptible to bacterial UTI when they are otherwise resistant. Ablation of IL-4 receptor alpha (IL-4Rα) signaling restored the baseline resistance of BALB/c mice to bacterial UTI despite prior exposure to S. haematobium eggs. Interestingly, numbers of NKT cells were decreased in coexposed versus bacterially monoinfected bladders. Given that schistosomeinduced, non-natural killer T (NKT) cell leukocyte infiltration may dilute NKT cell numbers in the bladders of coexposed mice without exerting a specific functional effect on these cells, we next examined NKT cell biology on a per-cell basis. Invariant NKT (iNKT) cells from coexposed mice expressed less gamma interferon (IFN-γ) per cell than did those from mice with UTI alone. Moreover, coexposure resulted in lower CD1d expression in bladder antigen-presenting cells (APC) than did bacterial UTI alone in an IL-4Rα-dependent fashion. Finally, coexposed mice were protected from prolonged bacterial infection by administration of α-galactosylceramide, an iNKT cell agonist. Our findings point to a previously unappreciated role for helminth-induced IL-4 in impairment of iNKT cell-mediated clearance of bacterial coexposure. © 2014, American Society for Microbiology.

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