Role of T lymphocytes in secretory response to an enteric nematode parasite
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Athymic (nude) rats have been used to assess the role of thymus-dependent T cells in the control of the intestinal response following infection with the enteric parasite, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis. Tissues from infected rats were excised on days 4, 7, 10, and 21 postinfection (p-i) for physiological and morphological studies; uninfected (day 0) rats served as controls. In response to the worm burden, jejunal tissues displayed a secretory response, indicated by an elevated baseline short-circuit current (Isc) on days 7 and 10 p-i, and were more responsive to histamine than control tissues. Despite this enhanced secretory response, approximately 35% of the worm burden was still present on day 21 p-i (compared with expulsion of > 95% by day 14 p-i in normal rats). Mast cell activation and hyperplasia, increased goblet cell (implying increased mucus synthesis) and intraepithelial leukocyte numbers, and abnormalities in Isc responses after electrical stimulation of enteric nerves were identified following infection. These events in nude rats were attenuated or delayed in onset as compared with conventional immunocompetent rats. Our results support the postulate that thymus-dependent T cells regulate the timing and/or nature of the mucosal response to enteric parasitic infections. However, ion secretion was not altered in the absence of T cells and, therefore, is more likely to be a consequence of mast cell activation.
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