Development of a vaccine which is capable of generating a strong cellular immune response associated with gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) production and cytotoxic T-cell development requires that the immunogen be capable of inducing the secretion of interleukin-12 (IL-12), which is a pivotal factor for the differentiation of Th1 or Tc1 cells. We have previously shown that the heat-inactivated gram-negative bacterium Brucella abortus can induce IFN-gamma secretion by T cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that B. abortus and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from B. abortus can induce IL-12 p40 mRNA expression and protein secretion by human elutriated monocytes (99% pure). p40 mRNA was detected within 4 h, and p40 protein could be measured at 24 h. This induction was abrogated by anti-CD14 monoclonal antibody, suggesting that monocytes recognize B. abortus via their receptor for LPS. The biological activity of IL-12 secreted by B. abortus-stimulated monocytes was demonstrated by its ability to upregulate IFN-gamma mRNA expression in T cells separated from monocytes and B. abortus by a transwell membrane. The B. abortus-induced IL-12 also enhanced NK cytolytic activity against K562 target cells. B. abortus was shown to rapidly increase the expression of the costimulatory molecules B7.1 and B7.2 and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 on human monocytes. Together, these data indicate that B. abortus can directly activate human monocytes and provide the cytokine milieu which would direct the immune response towards Th1-Tc1 differentiation
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