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Impairment of natural killer cell activity in Chlamydia trachomatis infected individuals

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Natural killer (NK) cell activity is impaired in Chlamydia trachomatis-infected patients. The mechanisms behind the altered NK functions are not clear, but data concerning NK and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) activity have been reported. To investigate whether this impairment is related to a defect at the target cell binding and/or the postbinding level, we evaluated highly purified NK cells obtained from 125 C. trachomatis-infected patients and compared them with 101 normal controls for their ability to kill K-562 and U-937 cell lines using a 51Cr release assay; release tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ); and kill anti-IgM preincubated P-815 cell line (ADCC activity). We found a decrease in the lytic capability of NK cells from C. trachomatis-infected patients against target cell lines; decreased ability to kill bound target cells; and low levels of released TNF-α and INF-γ after incubation with U-937 cells. Taken together, these findings suggest that the impaired NK cell reaction during chlamydial infection is related to defects both at the target and postbinding levels. However, the precise mechanisms remain to be determined. The inability to restore normal NK activity after long-term culture in the presence of high levels of recombinant IL-2 support the hypothesis of an anergic process during chlamydial infection.

Keywords: C. trachomatis; natural killer (NK) cells; α-interferon (INF-α); γ-interferon (INF-γ)

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre International de Recherches Medicales de Franceville (CIRMF), Franceville, Gabon

Publication date: November 1, 1999

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