Toll-like receptor 4 protects against lethal Leptospira interrogans serovar icterohaemorrhagiae infection and contributes to in vivo control of leptospiral burden

Suganya Viriyakosol, Michael A. Matthias, Mark A. Swancutt, Theo N. Kirkland, Joseph M. Vinetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

91 Scopus citations


The roles of innate immune responses in protection from or pathogenesis of severe leptospirosis remain unclear. We examined the role of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in mouse infection and macrophage responses to Leptospira. C3H/HeJ mice (TLR4 deficient) and C3H/HeJ-SCID mice, but not C3H/OuJ mice (TLR4 intact), died after intraperitoneal infection with Leptospira interrogans serovar Icterohaemorrhagiae. Death in both C3H/HeJ mouse strains was associated with jaundice and pulmonary hemorrhage, similar to the patient from whom the isolate was obtained. In chronic sublethal infection, TLR4-deficient mice harbored more leptospires in liver, lung, and kidney than control mice. Heat-killed Leptospira stimulated macrophages to secrete proinflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and macrophage inflammatory protein 2 not inhibited by polymyxin B, suggesting that leptospiral lipopolysaccharide (LPS) did not drive these responses. Anti-TLR4 and anti-MD-2 but not anti-CD14 monoclonal antibodies inhibited cytokine production. Peritoneal macrophages from CD14 -/- and TLR2-/- mice exhibited no defect in cytokine responses to Leptospira compared to controls. Macrophages from C3H/HeJ, TLR4-/-, and MyD88-/- mice secreted far-lower levels of cytokines than wild-type macrophages in response to Leptospira. TLR4 plays a crucial role in protection from acute lethal infection and control of leptospiral burden during sublethal chronic infection. Cytokine responses in macrophages correlated with leptospiral clearance. These TLR4-dependent but CD14/TLR2-independent responses are likely mediated by a leptospiral ligand(s) other than LPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-895
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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