Infection and immunity

Sensing of interleukin-1 cytokines during Streptococcus pneumoniae colonization contributes to macrophage recruitment and bacterial clearance.

PMID 26034210


Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus), a leading cause of bacterial disease, is most commonly carried in the human nasopharynx. Colonization induces inflammation that promotes the organism's growth and transmission. This inflammatory response is dependent on intracellular sensing of bacterial components that access the cytosolic compartment via the pneumococcal pore-forming toxin pneumolysin. In vitro, cytosolic access results in cell death that includes release of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β). IL-1 family cytokines, including IL-1β, are secreted upon activation of inflammasomes, although the role of this activation in the host immune response to pneumococcal carriage is unknown. Using a murine model of pneumococcal nasopharyngeal colonization, we show that mice deficient in the interleukin-1 receptor type 1 (Il1r1(-/-)) have reduced numbers of neutrophils early after infection, fewer macrophages later in carriage, and prolonged bacterial colonization. Moreover, intranasal administration of Il-1β promoted clearance. Macrophages are the effectors of clearance, and characterization of macrophage chemokines in colonized mice revealed that Il1r1(-/-) mice have lower expression of the C-C motif chemokine ligand 6 (CCL6), correlating with reduced macrophage recruitment to the nasopharynx. IL-1 family cytokines are known to promote adaptive immunity; however, we observed no difference in the development of humoral or cellular immunity to pneumococcal colonization between wild-type and Il1r1(-/-) mice. Our findings show that sensing of IL-1 cytokines during colonization promotes inflammation without immunity, which may ultimately benefit the pneumococcus.