Overexpression of RORγt Enhances Pulmonary Inflammation after Infection with Mycobacterium Avium
Th1 immune responses are thought to be important in protection against intracellular pathogens. T-bet is a critical regulator for Th1 cell differentiation and Th1 cytokine production. The aim of this study was to determine the role of T-bet in host defense against Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection. Wild-type mice, T-bet-deficient mice, and T-bet-overexpressing mice were infected with MAC via intratracheal inoculation. Macrophages and dendritic cells obtained from these mice were incubated with MAC. T-bet-deficient mice were highly susceptible to MAC, compared with wild-type mice and T-bet-overexpressing mice. Neutrophilic pulmonary inflammation was also enhanced in T-bet-deficient mice, but attenuated in T-bet-overexpressing mice, following MAC infection. Cytokine expression shifted toward Th1 in the lung and spleen of T-bet-overexpressing mice, but toward Th17 in T-bet-deficient mice. IFN-γ supplementation to T-bet-deficient mice reduced systemic MAC growth but did not reduce pulmonary inflammation. In contrast, neutralization of IL-17 in T-bet-deficient mice reduced pulmonary inflammation but did not affect mycobacterial growth in any organs tested. T-bet-deficient T cells tended to differentiate toward Th17 cells in vitro following exposure to MAC. Treatment with NO donor suppressed MAC-induced Th17 cell differentiation of T-bet-deficient T cells. This study identified that the fine balance between Th1 and Th17 responses is essential in defining the outcome of MAC disease. T-bet functions as a regulator for Th1/Th17 balance and is a critical determinant for host resistance to MAC infection by controlling cytokine and NO levels.