The chemokine CCL2 (MCP-1) and its receptor CCR2 modulate leucocyte migration and T helper differentiation. CCL2 or CCR2 knockout (KO) mice have divergent phenotypes following infection with the intracellular parasite Leishmania major (L. major). Compared to wild-type (WT) mice, intradermally infected CCR2 KO mice in the L. major-resistant C57BL/6j background become susceptible and fail to generate protective Th1 responses. In contrast, subcutaneously infected CCL2 KO mice in the L. major-susceptible BALB/c background are resistant and exhibit reduced pathogenic Th2 responses. Here we explore two variables that may account for this contrasting outcome, namely background strain and route of infection. We found that the CCR2-null state, both in the BALB/c and the C57BL/6j background, was associated with increased susceptibility to intradermal or subcutaneous L. major infection. Notably, the CCL2-null state did not change the ability of C57BL/6j mice to mount protective responses following intradermal infection. Dual genetic inactivation of CCR2 and CCL2 in the L. major-resistant C57BL/6j background resulted in a shift to a susceptible phenotype analogous to that of CCR2 KO in the C57BL/6j background. We concluded that CCL2-independent effects of CCR2 are indispensable for the control of L. major infection and the generation of protective immune responses.
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