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A murine model was used to characterize the local immune and inflammatory response during ocular toxoplasmosis. Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I, normally expressed at low levels in immune-privileged sites such as the eye, was up-regulated during infection as determined by competitive reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR and immunocytochemistry for both beta2-microglobulin and the MHC class I heavy chain. However, the eyes of chronically infected mice also had increased levels of mRNA transcripts for transforming growth factor beta, a cytokine associated with immune privilege and constitutively expressed in normal eyes. Transcripts for a number of inflammatory mediators, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), were increased during chronic infection. The role of IL-6 was further investigated by comparing disease progression and the development of the local immune response in wild-type (WT) and IL-6-deficient mice (IL-6(-/-) mice). Following infection, IL-6(-/-) mice developed more severe inflammation in the retina and vitreous humor compared with WT mice. This increased severity of disease was associated with reduced ocular IL-1alpha and increased tumor necrosis factor alpha mRNA production compared with WT mice. Moreover, the increased severity of disease in IL-6(-/-) mice correlated with increased eye parasite burden as determined by RT-PCR for the Toxoplasma gondii bradyzoite-specific LDH2 gene. These results demonstrate alterations to components of immune privilege as a result of ocular toxoplasmosis and a role for IL-6 in controlling parasite numbers and inflammation in the eye.

Original publication




Journal article


Infect Immun

Publication Date





2589 - 2595


Animals, Chronic Disease, Eye, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Histocompatibility Antigens Class I, Immunohistochemistry, Interleukin-6, Mice, Toxoplasma, Toxoplasmosis, Ocular, Transforming Growth Factor beta, Up-Regulation, beta 2-Microglobulin