We have previously reported that T cells bearing T cell receptors (TCRs) of gamma/delta type appear at a relatively early stage of primary infection with Listeria monocytogenes in mice. To characterize the early-appearing gamma/delta T cells during listeriosis, we analyzed the specificity and cytokine production of the gamma/delta T cells in the peritoneal cavity in mice inoculated intraperitoneally with a sublethal dose of L. monocytogenes. The early-appearing gamma/delta T cells, most of which were of CD4-CD8- phenotype, proliferated and secreted IFN-gamma and macrophage chemotactic factor in response to purified protein derivative from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or recombinant 65-kD heat-shock protein derived from M. bovis but not to heat-killed Listeria. To further elucidate the potential role of the gamma/delta T cells in the host-defense mechanism against primary infection with Listeria, we examined the effects of in vivo administration of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against TCR-gamma/delta or TCR-alpha/beta on the bacterial eradication in mice infected with Listeria. Most of alpha/beta T cells or gamma/delta T cells were depleted in the peripheral lymphoid organs at least for 12 d after an intraperitoneal injection of 200 micrograms TCR-alpha/beta mAb or 200 micrograms TCR-gamma/delta mAb, respectively. An exaggerated bacterial multiplication was evident at the early stage of listerial infection in the gamma/delta T cells-depleted mice, whereas the alpha/beta T cell-depleted mice exhibited much the same resistance level as the control mice at this stage although the resistance was severely impaired at the late stage after listerial infection.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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