Increased Dendritic Cell Numbers Impair Protective Immunity to Intracellular Bacteria Despite Augmenting Antigen-Specific CD8+ T Lymphocyte Responses Academic Article uri icon


  • Dendritic cells (DCs) reside in tissues, where they function as sentinels, providing an essential link between innate and adaptive immunity. Increasing the numbers of DCs in vivo augments T cell responses, and can cause dramatic CTL-dependent tumor regression. To determine whether greater DC numbers promoted T cell-mediated protection in the context of host defense against intracellular bacteria, we treated mice with Flt3 ligand (Flt3-L) to increase DCs in vivo and challenged them with Listeria monocytogenes. Unexpectedly, after primary challenge with Listeria, the overall control of Listeria infection was impaired in Flt3-L-treated mice, which had greater bacterial burden and mortality than controls. Similar results were obtained when DC numbers were increased by treatment with polyethylene glycol-conjugated GM-CSF rather than Flt3-L and in mice infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Impaired protection was not due to dysfunctional T cell responses, as Flt3-L-treated mice had a greater frequency and absolute number of Ag-specific CD8+ T cells, which produced IFN-gamma, exhibited cytolytic activity, and transferred protection. The increased Listeria burden in Flt3-L-treated mice was preferentially associated with DCs, which were unable to kill Listeria and more resistant to CTL lysis compared with macrophages in vitro. Although we cannot exclude the possibility that other potential effects, in addition to increased numbers of DCs, are shared by Flt3-L and polyethylene glycol-conjugated GM-CSF and contributed to the increase in susceptibility observed in treated mice, these results support the notion that DC numbers must be properly controlled within physiological limits to optimize host defense to intracellular bacterial pathogens.

author list (cited authors)

  • Alaniz, R. C., Sandall, S., Thomas, E. K., & Wilson, C. B.

citation count

  • 35

publication date

  • March 2004