The Journal of experimental medicine

Secreted lymphotoxin-alpha is essential for the control of an intracellular bacterial infection.

PMID 11208864


Although the essential role of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in the control of intracellular bacterial infection is well established, it is uncertain whether the related cytokines lymphotoxin-alpha (LTalpha3) and lymphotoxin-beta (LTbeta) have independent roles in this process. Using C57Bl/6 mice in which the genes for these cytokines have been disrupted, we have examined the relative contribution of secreted LTalpha3 and membrane-bound LTbeta in the host response to aerosol Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. To overcome the lack of peripheral lymph nodes in LTalpha-/- and LTbeta-/- mice, bone marrow chimeric mice were constructed. LT-/- chimeras, which lack both secreted LTalpha3 and membrane-bound LTbeta (LT1beta2 and LT2beta1), were highly susceptible and succumbed 5 wk after infection. LTbeta-/- chimeras, which lack only the membrane-bound LTbeta, controlled the infection in a comparable manner to wild-type (WT) chimeric mice. T cell responses to mycobacterial antigens and macrophage responses in LTalpha-/- chimeras were equivalent to those of WT chimeras, but in LTalpha-/- chimeras, granuloma formation was abnormal. LTalpha-/- chimeras recruited normal numbers of T cells into their lungs, but the lymphocytes were restricted to perivascular and peribronchial areas and were not colocated with macrophages in granulomas. Therefore, LTalpha3is essential for the control of pulmonary tuberculosis, and its critical role lies not in the activation of T cells and macrophages per se but in the local organization of the granulomatous response.