Interleukin-6 regulates the phenotype of the immune response to a tuberculosis subunit vaccine


Dr R. Appelberg, Laboratory of Microbiology and Immunology of Infection, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre 823, 4150–180 Porto, Portugal. E-mail:


We investigated the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the development of the immune response to a subunit vaccine against tuberculosis consisting of the culture filtrate proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis emulsified in the adjuvant dimethyldioctadecylammonium bromide (DDA). C57Bl/6 mice immunized with this vaccine developed a strong T helper 1 (Th1) response characterized by an increased production of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) secreted by CD4+ T cells. Neutralization of IL-6 during in vivo priming resulted in marked reduction in the ability of T cells to secrete IFN-γ and IL-2 and to proliferate. IL-6 gene-disrupted mice primed with the vaccine showed a decrease in the number of IFN-γ-producing cells and an increase in IL-4-secreting cells as compared to control mice. In contrast, neutralization of IL-6 during a boost of the vaccine in previously primed mice did not affect the development of IFN-γ-producing cells but still increased the number of IL-4-producing cells. Our work shows that IL-6 plays a major role in the priming but not in the later expression of a Th1 response to a tuberculosis vaccine.