Brucella abortus and Pregnancy in Mice: Impact of Chronic Infection on Fertility and the Role of Regulatory T Cells in Tissue Colonization. Academic Article uri icon


  • Stealthy intracellular bacterial pathogens are known to establish persistent and sometimes lifelong infections. Some of these pathogens also have a tropism for the reproductive system, thereby increasing the risk of reproductive disease and infertility. To date, the pathogenic mechanism involved remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that Brucella abortus, a notorious reproductive pathogen, has the ability to infect the nonpregnant uterus, sustain infection, and induce inflammatory changes during both acute and chronic stages of infection. In addition, we demonstrated that chronically infected mice had a significantly reduced number of pregnancies compared to naive controls. To investigate the immunologic mechanism responsible for uterine tropism, we explored the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the pathogenesis of Brucella abortus infection. We show that highly suppressive CD4+FOXP3+TNFR2+ Tregs contribute to the persistence of Brucella abortus infection and that inactivation of Tregs with tumor necrosis factor receptor II (TNFR2) antagonistic antibody protected mice by significantly reducing bacterial burden both systemically and within reproductive tissues. These findings support a critical role of Tregs in the pathogenesis of persistence induced by intracellular bacterial pathogens, including B. abortus Results from this study indicate that adverse reproductive outcomes can occur as sequelae of chronic infection in nonpregnant animals and that fine-tuning Treg activity may provide novel immunotherapeutic and prevention strategies against intracellular bacterial infections such as brucellosis.

published proceedings

  • Infect Immun

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Adetunji, S. A., Faustman, D. L., Adams, L. G., Garcia-Gonzalez, D. G., Hensel, M. E., Khalaf, O. H., & Arenas-Gamboa, A. M.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Adetunji, Shakirat A||Faustman, Denise L||Adams, L Garry||Garcia-Gonzalez, Daniel G||Hensel, Martha E||Khalaf, Omar H||Arenas-Gamboa, Angela M

editor list (cited editors)

  • Roy, C. R.

publication date

  • September 2020