TNFα and IFNγ but Not Perforin Are Critical for CD8 T Cell-Mediated Protection against Pulmonary Yersinia pestis Infection

Frank M. Szaba, Lawrence W. Kummer, Debra K. Duso, Ekaterina P. Koroleva, Alexei V. Tumanov, Andrea M. Cooper, James B. Bliska, Stephen T. Smiley, Jr Shiuan Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Septic pneumonias resulting from bacterial infections of the lung are a leading cause of human death worldwide. Little is known about the capacity of CD8 T cell-mediated immunity to combat these infections and the types of effector functions that may be most effective. Pneumonic plague is an acutely lethal septic pneumonia caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Yersinia pestis. We recently identified a dominant and protective Y. pestis antigen, YopE69-77, recognized by CD8 T cells in C57BL/6 mice. Here, we use gene-deficient mice, Ab-mediated depletion, cell transfers, and bone marrow chimeric mice to investigate the effector functions of YopE69-77-specific CD8 T cells and their relative contributions during pulmonary Y. pestis infection. We demonstrate that YopE69-77-specific CD8 T cells exhibit perforin-dependent cytotoxicity in vivo; however, perforin is dispensable for YopE69-77-mediated protection. In contrast, YopE69-77-mediated protection is severely impaired when production of TNFα and IFNγ by CD8 T cells is simultaneously ablated. Interestingly, TNFα is absolutely required at the time of challenge infection and can be provided by either T cells or non-T cells, whereas IFNγ provided by T cells prior to challenge appears to facilitate the differentiation of optimally protective CD8 T cells. We conclude that cytokine production, not cytotoxicity, is essential for CD8 T cell-mediated control of pulmonary Y. pestis infection and we suggest that assays detecting Ag-specific TNFα production in addition to antibody titers may be useful correlates of vaccine efficacy against plague and other acutely lethal septic bacterial pneumonias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1004142
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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