Relationship between an inflammatory mucosal T cell response and susceptibility of sheep to Teladorsagia circumcincta infection
Venturina, Virginia Mauro
Control strategies against the parasitic nematode Teladorsagia circumcincta are problematic under current sheep management systems. Infection with the parasite, particularly in young lambs, results in significant production losses therefore sustainable worm control is being sought. It has been established that variation in resistance to T. circumcincta is under genetic control and the development of resistance is an acquired characteristic and has an immunological basis. This project investigated the immunological response to infection, of lambs with predicted resistance or susceptibility to T. circumcincta. Specifically, the study aimed to identify immune response-associated genes that were differentially-expressed in resistant and susceptible lambs and attempted to identify mutations in these genes. This study was part of a long term project that aims to identify genetic marker/s to aid in marker-assisted selection (MAS) for resistance to T. circumcincta. Real time reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (real time RTqPCR) was performed on abomasal mucosa and lymph nodes from 55 lambs used in a previous experiment. The lambs had been either trickle-infected with 2,300 infective larvae every two days over three months (infected resistant/susceptible, n=45) or sham-dosed (non-infected control, n=10). Lambs were ranked in relation to faecal egg count (FEC) and adult worm count (AWC) at post mortem; zero or low FEC (resistant) to high FEC (susceptible). Histopathology showed only mild pathological changes in the abomasal mucosa of resistant lambs but heavy lymphocytic inflammatory infiltration in the mucosa and submucosa of infected susceptible animals. Measurements of a range of cytokine transcripts and cell markers associated with the four major CD4+ T cell subsets identified IL6, IL21, and IL23A as significantly increased by at least two-fold in abomasal lymph nodes and abomasal mucosa of susceptible lambs in comparison to resistant animals. Highly significant (P<0.02) positive correlations were found between IL6 (ρ=0.35), IL21 (ρ=0.54) and IL23A (ρ=0.38) transcript levels and AWC. Similarly, there were highly significant (P<0.01) positive correlations between FEC and IL6 (ρ=0.41), IL21 (ρ=0.65) and IL23A (ρ=0.31). In contrast, significant negative correlation (P<0.04) between IL23A with IgA antibody levels (ρ=-0.31) was found. There was also a significant positive correlation (P<0.03) of TGFB1 levels with AWC (ρ=0.42) and FEC (ρ=0.32) in the abomasal mucosa. These data suggests that susceptibility to T. circumcincta is linked to the activation of the inflammatory TH17 T cell subset and that this chronic inflammatory response was inappropriate to clear worm infection. High resolution melt analysis failed to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms in the coding regions of IL21 and IL21R. This is the first report of the involvement of TH17 response in GI worm infection in sheep. Similar gene expression studies involving the known upstream and downstream players of the TH17 response could be done.