IL-12 is one of the main cytokines driving the immune response to a resistant phenotype in leishmaniasis and in several other diseases involving intracellular microbes. In this study, we investigated IL-12 production by mononuclear phagocytes at several developmental stages when stimulated with Leishmania major, L. amazonensis or L. chagasi. Bone marrow cells were cultured for 4-6 days in vitro in the presence of M-CSF, GM-CSF or IL-3. After density separation, only cells banding at the 40-50% Percoll interface, but not those at 20-40% or 50-80% interfaces, produced large amounts of IL-12 p40 when stimulated with LPS or live Leishmania promastigotes. However, only low levels of IL-12 p70 were produced under these conditions. The high IL-12 p40-producing cells could be similarly derived from mouse strains with different susceptibility to Leishmania. Quantitative analysis of monocyte/macrophage lineage marker expression, in combination with positive and negative selection, led to the conclusion that the high IL-12 p40-producing cells are macrophages at an intermediate stage of maturation between immature and fully differentiated cells, expressing ER-HR3 but only low levels of the mature markers, scavenger receptor and CD11b/Mac-1. They do not express any of the precursor markers CD31/ER-MP12, Ly-6C/ER-MP20 or ER-MP58. Because recruitment of monocytes to an infection site and its draining lymph node is a general phenomenon, the notion that, developing from these monocytes, a population of mononuclear phagocytes at an intermediate maturation stage has the capacity to synthesize large amounts of IL-12 p40 has significant bearing on our understanding of immune regulation in leishmaniasis and also in infections by other pathogens.

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Microbes and Infection: a journal on infectious agents and host defenses
Department of Immunology

Oliveira, M., Tadokoro, C., Lima, G., Mosca, T., Vieira, L., Leenen, P., & Abrahamsohn, I. (2005). Macrophages at intermediate stage of maturation produce high levels of IL-12 p40 upon stimulation with Leishmania. Microbes and Infection: a journal on infectious agents and host defenses, 7(2), 213–223. doi:10.1016/j.micinf.2004.10.013