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The immune responses generated after infection with Eimeria spp. are complex, include both cellular and humoral components, and lead to protection against re-infection. To facilitate the rational development of the next generation of anticoccidial vaccines it is important that the nature of the immunoprotective response against infection with Eimeria spp. is determined. In this brief report we discuss results that were obtained using a combination of genetic and cellular approaches to dissect the essential immune effector components that operate against infection with Eimeria vermiformis. Mice rendered deficient of immune function by targeted gene disruption at a variety of immune loci represent an integral component of our studies and include those with targeted gene disruption at loci that encode the B- and T-cell receptors (BCR, TCR), antigen presentation molecules and immune-effector molecules. Our studies demonstrated that TCR-alpha-beta + T cells are essential for immunoprotection during both primary and secondary infection. Moreover, during primary infection the major effector cell type is a population of major histocompatibility complex class II-restricted, interferon-gamma-producing TCR-alpha-beta T cell consistent with a T helper 1 phenotype. In addition, there is a supplementary role for another class of cells (presumably T cells) that are restricted to either non-classical antigen presentation molecules or classical major histocompatibilty complex class I loaded via an atypical pathway. Mice with a deficiency in interleukin-6 were slightly more susceptible to primary infection than intact animals, consistent with the reported effects of interleukin-6 upon the generation of T helper 1-type responses in vivo. In terms of the host response to re-infection, TCR-alpha-beta T cells were essential for immunity, but the requirement for specific cell subsets and effector mechanisms was much less stringent. Mice deficient in gamma-delta T cells, classical major histocompatibility complex class I, non-classical antigen presentation pathways, the cytokines interferon-gamma, interleukin-4, interleukin-6 and the cytolytic effector molecules perforin or FasL were completely immune to secondary infection. Moreover, major histocompatibility complex class II-deficient I-A-beta-/- mice were capable of mounting a substantial response to secondary infection, manifest by a 95% reduction in oocyst output compared with primary infection. These data have important consequences for the development of immune intervention strategies and indicate that vaccine development may be targeted toward the generation of a wider range of effector mechanisms than those that operate during primary infection.

Original publication




Conference paper

Publication Date





1061 - 1069


Animals, Coccidiosis, Eimeria, Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic, Major Histocompatibility Complex, Mice, Poultry, Poultry Diseases, Rats, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta, T-Lymphocytes