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Rapid changes in shape and number of MHC class II expressing cells in rat airways after Mycoplasma pulmonis infection


Mycoplasma pulmonis infection in rodents causes a chronic inflammatory airway disease with a strong immunological component, leading to mucosal remodeling and angiogenesis. We sought to determine the effect of this infection on the shape and number of dendritic cells and other major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II expressing cells in the airway mucosa of Wistar rats. Changes in the shape of subepithelial OX6 (anti-MHC class II)-immunoreactive cells were evident in the tracheal mucosa 2 days after intranasal inoculation with M. pulmonis. By 1 week, the shape of the cells had changed from stellate to rounded (mean shape index increased from 0.42 to 0.77). The number of OX6-positive cells was increased 6-fold at 1 week and 16-fold at 4 weeks. Coincident with these changes, many columnar epithelial cells developed OX6 immunoreactivity, which was still present at 4 weeks. We conclude that M. pulmonis infection creates a potent immunologic stimulus that augments and transforms the OX6-immunoreactive cell population in the airways by changing the functional state of airway dendritic cells, initiating an influx of MHC class II expressing cells, and activating expression of MHC class II molecules by airway epithelial cells.

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