Immunological analysis and pathological examination of gnotobiotic mice monoassociated with Mycoplasma pneumoniae

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Although mycoplasmal pneumonia has been generally considered to be a disease with good prognosis, a pathogenic host immune response has been associated with its occurrence. In the present study, the pathogenic significance of the immune response was examined using germ-free mice either infected intranasally with Mycoplasma pneumoniae or inoculated with M. pneumoniae antigens (soluble antigen and partially purified antigen). In gnotobiotic mice monoassociated with M. pneumoniae, 104 c.f.u. M. pneumoniae per lung were isolated 2–28 days after infection. Inflammatory changes with infiltration of lymphocytes were histopathologically detected in the perivascular area at 2 and 7 days after infection. In the mice intranasally inoculated with soluble antigen or partially purified antigens (F6 and F10 antigens), infiltration of neutrophils and lymphocytes was histopathologically detected at 2 days after inoculation. Severe pneumonia with tissue destruction was observed in the mice inoculated with F6 antigen. A gamma interferon (IFN-γ) dominant response in endogenous cytokine expression was observed in all the treated mice. These results indicate that inflammatory changes in the lung tissue were prolonged in gnotobiotic mice monoassociated with M. pneumoniae compared with mice inoculated with M. pneumoniae antigen. In addition, it was shown that IFN-γ plays an important role in the pathogenesis of pneumonia in mice either infected with M. pneumoniae or inoculated with its antigen. In particular, the F6 antigen has been considered to be an important virulence factor in terms of induction of tissue injury causing infiltration of lymphocytes and neutrophils in the lung, suggesting a close interaction between the immune response and the occurrence of M. pneumoniae pneumonia.

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