IL-12/23p40-dependent clearance of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in the murine model of human anaplasmosis


  • Editor: Patrick Brennan

Correspondence: Erol Fikrig, Section of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. Tel.: +1 203 785 2453; fax: +1 203 785 7053; e-mail:


Human anaplasmosis is an emerging infectious disease transmitted by ticks that can be potentially fatal in the immunocompromised and the elderly. The mechanisms of defense against the causative agent, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, are not completely understood; however, interferon (IFN)-γ plays an important role in pathogen clearance. Here, we show that IFN-γ is regulated through an early IL-12/23p40-dependent mechanism. Interleukin (IL)-12/23p40 is regulated in macrophages and dendritic cells after activation by microbial agonists and cytokines and constitutes a subunit of IL-12 and IL-23. IL-12/23p40-deficient mice displayed an increased A. phagocytophilum burden, accelerated thrombocytopenia and increased neutrophil numbers in the spleen at day 6 postinfection. Infection of MyD88- and mitogen-activated kinase kinase 3 (MKK3)-deficient mice suggested that the early susceptibility due to IL-12/23p40 deficiency was not dependent on signaling through MyD88 or MKK3. The lack of IL-12/23p40 reduced IFN-γ production in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells although the effect was more pronounced in CD4+ T cells. Our data suggest that the immune response against A. phagocytophilum is a multifactorial and cooperative process. The IL-12/23p40 subunit drives the CD4+ Th1 immune response in the early phase of infection and IL-12/23p40-independent mechanisms ultimately contribute to pathogen elimination from the host.