To investigate the role of intestinal lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL) and intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) in controlling Cryptosporidium parvum infection, changes in their phenotypes and functional properties were studied after induction of primary and challenge infections in immunocompetent mice. As shown by oocyst-shedding patterns, the challenge-infected group recovered more rapidly from infection than did the primary-infected group. In LPL, proportions of activated CD4+, CD25+, IgG1+, IgA+, and CD4+/IFN-γ+ cells increased significantly in the primary-infected group compared with controls. In the challenge-infected group, proportions of these cells decreased. The antigen-specific IgA level was elevated significantly among LPL of both primary- and challenge-infected groups. Among IEL, proportions of activated CD8+, T cell receptor (TCR) γδ+, and CD8+/TCR γδ+ cells increased significantly in the challenge-infected group compared with controls and the primary-infected group; their cytotoxicity also was enhanced. However, the proportion of IEL expressing Th1 cytokines was lower than that among LPL in both infected groups. The results suggest that LPL play a more important role in protection against a primary infection with C. parvum, through the production of IFN-γ and IgA, whereas IEL are more involved in protection against a challenge infection, through enhanced cytotoxicity.

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