The group is interested in studying the interactions between pathogenic bacteria and cells from the immune system. It has recently discovered a new pathway for the capture of bacteria by T cells i.e. bacterial transinfection. Certain pathogenic bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella enterica and Shigella flexneri) are capable of invading T lymphocytes in vivo and modifying their behaviour.
The group has dissected the bacterial uptake pathway by cells; transinfection from previously infected dendritic cells (DCs). The transinfection process requires direct contact between the two cell types and is strongly increased by antigenic presentation. This new mechanism of bacterial capture by T cells is much more effective than direct capture and is directed by T cells. It is worth noting that some viruses e.g. HIV, use a similar transinfection mechanism to access CD4+ T lymphocytes through infected DCs.
Surprisingly, transinfected T cells killed captured bacteria in the first few hours after infection in a more efficient way than professional phagocytes such as DCs. Therefore, T cells, the paradigm of cells from the adaptive immune system, could perform functions that were previously thought to be exclusive to components of innate immunity; T lymphocytes can capture and destroy bacteria in a similar way to innate immunity. In addition, transinfected T cells (ti) secrete large amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, interferon-γ and TNF-α), which play important roles in the elimination of bacteria and efficiently protect in vivo against the “challenge” with Listeria monocytogenes.
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