Cholera toxin (CT) and the type II heat-labile enterotoxins (HLT) LT-IIa and LT-IIb act as potent systemic and mucosal adjuvants and induce distinct T-helper (Th)-cell cytokine profiles. In the present study, CT and the type II HLT were found to differentially affect cytokine production by anti-CD3-stimulated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and the cellular mechanisms responsible were investigated. CT suppressed interleukin-2 (IL-2), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and IL-12 production by PBMC cultures more than either LT-IIa or LT-IIb. CT but not LT-IIa or LT-IIb reduced the expression of CD4+ T-cell surface activation markers (CD25 and CD69) and subsequent proliferative responses of anti-CD3-stimulated T cells. CT but not LT-IIa or LT-IIb significantly reduced the expression of CD40 ligand (CD40L) on CD4+ T cells. In a coculture system, CT-treated CD4+ T cells induced significantly less TNF-α and IL-12 p70 production by both autologous monocytes and monocyte-derived dendritic cells than either LT-IIa- or LT-IIb-treated CD4+ T cells. These findings demonstrate that CT, LT-IIa, and LT-IIb differentially affect CD40-CD40L interactions between antigen-presenting cells and T cells and help explain the distinct cytokine profiles observed with type I and type II HLT when used as mucosal adjuvants
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