Reactive arthritis is triggered by certain microbes that cause primary infections mainly on the gastrointestinal or urogenital mucosa. The disease is strongly associated with HLA-B27. Long persistence of causative microbes or their structures in the body has been thought to have an important role in the pathogenesis of reactive arthritis. This suggests that the elimination of the microbes causing reactive arthritis is ineffective or disturbed in HLA-B27-positive individuals developing this complication. We examined the role of the HLA-B27 antigen in microbe-host interaction in vitro by monitoring the invasion and intracellular survival of Salmonella enteritidis in mouse fibroblasts transfected with HLA-B27, HLA-B7, or beta2-microglobulin only. S. enteritidis invaded into all the three transfectants with the same efficiency. However, at 6 and 10 days after incubation, there were more living intracellular Salmonella organisms in HLA-B27 transfectants than in the other transfected cell lines (P < 0.05), suggesting that the bactericidal effect is impaired in these cells. Impaired NO production in HLA-B27-transfected cells was indicated as a possible mechanism, since the amount of nitrite in the supernatants of the Salmonella-infected HLA-B27-transfected cells was smaller than that in the supernatants of the Salmonella-infected HLA-B7- or beta2-microglobulin-transfected cells (P < 0.001). The inhibition of NO synthesis by N-monomethyl-L-arginine resulted in impaired elimination of Salmonella also in HLA-B7and beta2-microglobulin-transfected cells. The inverse correlation between intracellular survival of Salmonella and the amount of nitrite detected in culture supernatants supports the hypothesis that the L-arginine-dependent NO pathway plays an important role in the murine fibroblast response against Salmonella. We suggest that a major histocompatibility complex class I antigen, HLA-B27, may contribute to the intracellular persistence of Salmonella by a mechanism which involves the NO pathway
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