Although the causative agent of Johne's disease, Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, is well known, the etiology of disease and the immune responses generated in response to infection are still poorly understood. Knowledge of definitive markers of protective immunity, infection, and the establishment of chronic granulomatous Johne's disease is necessary to advance vaccine and diagnostic development. We sought to profile the immune responses occurring within jejunal lymph nodes of experimentally challenged red deer (Cervus elaphus). Quantitative PCR was utilized to measure a range of cytokines, signaling molecules, and transcription factors involved in Th1, Th2, Treg, and Th17 immune responses. Significant differences in gene expression were observed between control, minimally diseased, and severely diseased animals, with severely diseased animals showing elevated proinflammatory transcripts and reduced anti-inflammatory transcripts. We identified a proinflammatory cytokine milieu of gamma interferon, interleukin-1α (IL-1α), and IL-17, which may contribute to the immunopathology observed during clinical Johne's disease and suggest that Th2 and Treg immune responses may play an important role in controlling the development of immunopathology in infected animals
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