Vitamin A-deficient (A-) mice make strikingly poor IgG responses when they are immunized with purified protein antigens. Previously, we showed that A- T cells overproduce interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), which then could inhibit interleukin 4 (IL-4)-stimulated B cell IgG responses. To determine if the altered IFN-gamma regulation pattern and its immunological consequences would extend to a natural infection, we studied mice infected with the parasitic helminth Trichinella spiralis. The course of the infection was similar in A- and A-sufficient (A+) mice. These mice did not differ with respect to newborn larvae/female/hour produced in the intestine, or muscle larvae burden 5 wk postinfection. They also did not differ in the intestinal worm expulsion rate until day 15, when A- mice still harbored parasites, whereas A+ mice had cleared intestinal worms. Vitamin A deficiency reduced both the frequency of B lymphocytes secreting IgG1 antibodies to parasite antigens, and the bone marrow eosinophilia associated with helminth infection. The cytokine secretion patterns in infected mice were consistent with these observations and with previous studies. Mesenteric lymph node cells from infected A- mice secreted significantly more IFN-gamma, and significantly less IL-2, IL-4, and IL-5 than infected A+ controls. A- splenocytes secreted significantly more IFN-gamma, and equivalent amounts of IL-2, IL-4, and IL-5 compared with A+ controls. Interestingly, CD4-CD8- cells secreted the majority of the IL-4 produced in the spleen. The IL-2, IL-4, and IL-5 steady-state transcript levels correlated with secreted protein levels, but IFN-gamma transcripts did not. Although they secreted more protein, A- cells contained fewer IFN-gamma transcripts than A+ cells. These results suggest two vitamin A-mediated regulation steps in IFN-gamma gene expression: positive regulation of IFN-gamma transcript levels, and negative regulation posttranscriptionally. The essentially unaltered outcome of T. spiralis infection in vitamin A-deficient mice probably reflects a balance between cellular and humoral responses. The IFN-gamma overproduction might have a positive effect on the gut inflammatory response, but the decrease eosinophilia, cytokine production in mesenteric lymph node, and IgG1-secreting cell frequency might have a negative effect on T. spiralis immunity.

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