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Bacterial Manipulation of NK Cell Regulatory Activity Increases Susceptibility to Listeria monocytogenes Infection


Natural killer (NK) cells produce interferon (IFN)-γ and thus have been suggested to promote type I immunity during bacterial infections. Yet, Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and some other pathogens encode proteins that cause increased NK cell activation. Here, we show that stimulation of NK cell activation increases susceptibility during Lm infection despite and independent from robust NK cell production of IFNγ. The increased susceptibility correlated with IL-10 production by responding NK cells. NK cells produced IL-10 as their IFNγ production waned and the Lm virulence protein p60 promoted induction of IL-10 production by mouse and human NK cells. NK cells consequently exerted regulatory effects to suppress accumulation and activation of inflammatory myeloid cells. Our results reveal new dimensions of the role played by NK cells during Lm infection and demonstrate the ability of this bacterial pathogen to exploit the induction of regulatory NK cell activity to increase host susceptibility.

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