Conjunctival FOXP3 expression in trachoma: do regulatory T cells have a role in human ocular Chlamydia trachomatis infection?
ABSTRACT: Trachoma, caused by ocular infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, remains the leading infectious cause of blindness and in 2002 was responsible for 3.6% of total global blindness. Although transmission can be successfully interrupted using antibiotics and improvements in public and personal hygiene, the long-term success of the control programmes advocated by the World Health Organization are still uncertain. For the complete control and prevention of trachoma, a vaccine would be highly desirable. Currently there are no licensed vaccines for trachoma, and no human vaccine trials have been conducted since the 1960s. A barrier to new attempts to design and introduce a vaccine is the identification of immunologic correlates of protective immunity or immunopathology. We studied important correlates of the immune response in a trachoma-endemic population in order to improve our knowledge of this disease. This is essential for the successful development of a vaccine against both ocular and genital C. trachomatis infection.We used quantitative real-time PCR for C. trachomatis 16S rRNA to identify conjunctival infection. The expression of IFN-gamma, IDO, IL-10, and FOXP3 mRNA transcripts was measured. We evaluated the role of immune effector and regulatory responses in the control of chlamydial infection and in the resolution of clinical signs of trachoma in endemic communities in Gambia. All host transcripts examined were detectable even in normal conjunctiva. The levels of these transcripts were increased, compared to normal uninfected conjunctiva, when infection was detected, with or without clinical disease signs. Interestingly, when clinical disease signs were present in the absence of infection, the expression of a regulatory T cell transcription factor, FOXP3, remained elevated.There is evidence of an increase in the magnitude of the local anti-chlamydial cytokine immune responses with age. This increase is coupled to a decline in the prevalence of infection and active trachoma, suggesting that effective adaptive immunity is acquired over a number of years. The anti-chlamydial and inflammatory immune response at the conjunctival surface, which may control chlamydial replication, is closely matched by counter inflammatory or regulatory IL-10 expression. Differences in the level of FOXP3 expression in the conjunctiva may indicate a role for regulatory T cells in the resolution of the conjunctival immune response, which is important in protection from immunopathology. However, the expression of cytokines that control chlamydial replication and those that regulate the conjunctival immune response is not simply juxtaposed; the interaction between the infection and the clinical disease process is therefore more complex.
Project description:Trachoma, caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, remains the world's leading infectious cause of blindness. Repeated ocular infection during childhood leads to scarring of the conjunctiva, in-turning of the eyelashes (trichiasis) and corneal opacity in later life. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest non-chlamydial bacteria are associated with clinical signs of trachoma, independent of C. trachomatis infection.We used deep sequencing of the V1-V3 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to characterize the microbiome of the conjunctiva of 220 residents of The Gambia, 105 with healthy conjunctivae and 115 with clinical signs of trachoma in the absence of detectable C. trachomatis infection. Deep sequencing was carried out using the Roche-454 platform. Sequence data were processed and analyzed through a pipeline developed by the Human Microbiome Project.The microbiome of healthy participants was influenced by age and season of sample collection with increased richness and diversity seen in younger participants and in samples collected during the dry season. Decreased diversity and an increased abundance of Corynebacterium and Streptococcus were seen in participants with conjunctival scarring compared to normal controls. Abundance of Corynebacterium was higher still in adults with scarring and trichiasis compared to adults with scarring only.Our results indicate that changes in the conjunctival microbiome occur in trachomatous disease; whether these are a cause or a consequence is yet unknown.
Project description:Conjunctival samples from 60 individuals with and without the clinical signs of active trachoma were analysed on the U133 Plus 2.0 arrays. Global transcriptional changes characteristic of disease and infection phenotypes were identified. Two analysis methods found large numbers of differentially regulated genes and the existence of networks of co-expressed genes. There were signatures characteristic of the host defence response with evidence supporting infiltration of various types of leukocytes and activation of innate responses of epithelial cells. Two separate methods could classify disease and infection phenotype based on transcription signatures with 70% accuracy. These results provide an insight into the complexity of the acute response in trachoma but are able to partly explain the biology of trachoma through the identification of pathways and gene expression sets useful to future studies on chlamydial immunopathogenesis. Overall design: Conjunctival samples from 60 participants were tested on U133 plus 2.0 arrays (40 participants with clinical signs of active trachoma and 20 controls with normal conjunctivas as before). Samples were further sub-divided based on the detection and quantification of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis load by PCR tests. Gene expression was then assessed using differential expression and construction of co-expression networks. The content of the constructed gene lists which were identified as part of a network or differentially expressed were then tested for enrichment using publically available analysis tools to identify biological pathways expressed in the conjunctiva during C. trachomatis infection and disease episodes.
Project description:Conjunctival samples from 60 individuals with and without the clinical signs of active trachoma were analysed on the U133 Plus 2.0 arrays. Global transcriptional changes characteristic of disease and infection phenotypes were identified. Two analysis methods found large numbers of differentially regulated genes and the existence of networks of co-expressed genes. There were signatures characteristic of the host defence response with evidence supporting infiltration of various types of leukocytes and activation of innate responses of epithelial cells. Two separate methods could classify disease and infection phenotype based on transcription signatures with 70% accuracy. These results provide an insight into the complexity of the acute response in trachoma but are able to partly explain the biology of trachoma through the identification of pathways and gene expression sets useful to future studies on chlamydial immunopathogenesis. Conjunctival samples from 60 participants were tested on U133 plus 2.0 arrays (40 participants with clinical signs of active trachoma and 20 controls with normal conjunctivas as before). Samples were further sub-divided based on the detection and quantification of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis load by PCR tests. Gene expression was then assessed using differential expression and construction of co-expression networks. The content of the constructed gene lists which were identified as part of a network or differentially expressed were then tested for enrichment using publically available analysis tools to identify biological pathways expressed in the conjunctiva during C. trachomatis infection and disease episodes.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Trachoma, caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, remains the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Persistence and progression of the resulting clinical disease appears to be an immunologically mediated process. Azithromycin, which is distributed at the community level for trachoma control, has immunomodulatory properties. We investigated the impact of one round of oral azithromycin on conjunctival immune responses, C. trachomatis infection and clinical signs three- and six- months post treatment relative to three pre-treatment time-points. METHODOLOGY:A cohort of children aged 6 to 10 years were recruited from a trachoma endemic region of northern Tanzania and were visited five times in a 12-month period. They were examined for clinical signs of trachoma and conjunctival swabs were collected for laboratory analysis. C. trachomatis infection was detected and the expression of 46 host genes was quantified using quantitative PCR. All community members were offered azithromycin treatment immediately after the six-month timepoint according to international guidelines. FINDINGS:The prevalence of C. trachomatis infection and inflammatory disease signs were significantly reduced three- and six- months post-mass drug administration (MDA). C. trachomatis infection was strongly associated with clinical signs at all five time-points. A profound anti-inflammatory effect on conjunctival gene expression was observed 3 months post-MDA, however, gene expression had largely returned to pre-treatment levels of variation by 6 months. This effect was less marked, but still observed, after adjusting for C. trachomatis infection and when the analysis was restricted to individuals who were free from both infection and clinical disease at all five time-points. Interestingly, a modest effect was also observed in individuals who did not receive treatment. CONCLUSION:Conjunctival inflammation is the major clinical risk factor for progressive scarring trachoma, therefore, the reduction in inflammation associated with azithromycin treatment may be beneficial in limiting the development of potentially blinding disease sequelae. Future work should seek to determine whether this effect is mediated directly through inhibition of pro-inflammatory intracellular signalling molecules, through reductions in concurrent, sub-clinical infections, and/or through reduction of infection exposure.
Project description:Background:Several non-chlamydial microbial pathogens are associated with clinical signs of active trachoma in trachoma-endemic communities with a low prevalence of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) infection. In the Solomon Islands, the prevalence of Ct among children is low despite the prevalence of active trachoma being moderate. Therefore, we set out to investigate whether active trachoma was associated with a common non-chlamydial infection or with a dominant polymicrobial community dysbiosis in the Solomon Islands. Methods:We studied DNA from conjunctival swabs collected from 257 Solomon Islanders with active trachoma and matched controls. Droplet digital PCR was used to test for pathogens suspected to be able to induce follicular conjunctivitis. Polymicrobial community diversity and composition were studied by sequencing of hypervariable regions of the 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid gene in a subset of 54 cases and 53 controls. Results:Although Ct was associated with active trachoma, the number of infections was low (cases, 3.9%; controls, 0.4%). Estimated prevalence (cases and controls, respectively) of each non-chlamydial infection was as follows: Staphylococcus aureus: 1.9 and 1.9%, Adenoviridae: 1.2 and 1.2%, coagulase-negative Staphylococcus: 5.8 and 4.3%, Haemophilus influenzae: 7.4 and 11.7%, Moraxella catarrhalis: 2.3 and 4.7%, and Streptococcus pneumoniae: 7.0 and 6.2%. There was no statistically significant association between the clinical signs of trachoma and the presence or load of any of the non-Ct infections that were assayed. Interindividual variations in the conjunctival microbiome were characterized by differences in the levels of Corynebacterium, Propionibacterium, Helicobacter, and Paracoccus, but diversity and relative abundance of these specific genera did not differ significantly between cases and controls. Discussion:It is unlikely that the prevalent trachoma-like follicular conjunctivitis in this region of the Solomon Islands has a dominant bacterial etiology. Before implementing community-wide azithromycin distribution for trachoma, policy makers should consider that clinical signs of trachoma can be observed in the absence of any detectable azithromycin-susceptible organism.
Project description:Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular epitheliotropic bacterial pathogen of humans. Infection of the eye can result in trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. The pathophysiology of blinding trachoma is driven by multiple episodes of reinfection of conjunctival epithelial cells, producing an intense chronic inflammatory response resulting in submucosal tissue remodeling and scarring. Recent reports have shown that infection with trachoma organisms lacking the cryptic chlamydial plasmid is highly attenuated in macaque eyes, a relevant experimental model of human trachoma infection. To better understand the molecular basis of plasmid-mediated infection attenuation and the potential modulation of host immunity, we conducted transcriptional profiling of human epithelial cells infected with C. trachomatis plasmid-bearing (A2497) and plasmid-deficient (A2497P(-)) organisms. Infection of human epithelial cells with either strain increased the expression of host genes coding for proinflammatory (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF], macrophage colony-stimulating factor [MCSF], interleukin-6 [IL-6], IL-8, IL-1α, CXCL1, CXCL2, CXCL3, intercellular adhesion molecule 1 [ICAM1]), chemoattraction (CCL20, CCL5, CXCL10), immune suppression (PD-L1, NFKB1B, TNFAIP3, CGB), apoptosis (CASP9, FAS, IL-24), and cell growth and fibrosis (EGR1 and IL-20) proteins. Statistically significant increases in the levels of expression of many of these genes were found in A2497-infected cells compared to the levels of expression in A2497P(-)-infected cells. Our findings suggest that the chlamydial plasmid plays a focal role in the host cell inflammatory response to infection and immune avoidance. These results provide new insights into the role of the chlamydial plasmid as a chlamydial virulence factor and its contributions to trachoma pathogenesis.
Project description:Background: Trachoma, a neglected tropical disease, is the leading infectious cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide. Host responses to ocular chlamydial infection resulting in chronic inflammation and expansion of non-chlamydial bacteria are hypothesized risk factors for development of active trachoma and conjunctival scarring. Methods: Ocular swabs from trachoma endemic populations in The Gambia were selected from archived samples for 16S sequencing and host conjunctival gene expression. We recruited children with active trachoma and adults with conjunctival scarring, alongside corresponding matched controls. Findings: In children, active trachoma was not associated with significant changes in the ocular microbiome. Haemophilus enrichment was associated with antimicrobial responses but not linked to active trachoma. Adults with scarring trachoma had a reduced ocular bacterial diversity compared to controls, with increased relative abundance of Corynebacterium. Increased abundance of Corynebacterium in scarring disease was associated with innate immune responses to the microbiota, dominated by altered mucin expression and increased matrix adhesion. Interpretation: In the absence of current Chlamydia trachomatis infection, changes in the ocular microbiome associate with differential expression of antimicrobial and inflammatory genes that impair epithelial cell health. In scarring trachoma, expansion of non-pathogenic bacteria such as Corynebacterium and innate responses are coincident, warranting further investigation of this relationship. Comparisons between active and scarring trachoma supported the relative absence of type-2 interferon responses in scarring, whilst highlighting a common suppression of re-epithelialization with altered epithelial and bacterial adhesion, likely contributing to development of scarring pathology.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Trachoma is a progressive blinding disease initiated by infection of the conjunctiva with Chlamydia trachomatis. Repeated infections are thought to cause chronic inflammation, which drives scarring, leading to in-turning of the eyelids. The relationship between C. trachomatis, clinical inflammation and scarring development in children is not fully understood due to a paucity of longitudinal studies with infection data at frequent follow-up. METHODS AND FINDINGS:This longitudinal cohort study took place in northern Tanzania. Children aged 6-10 years at baseline were eligible for inclusion. Participants were visited every three months for four years. Clinical signs and conjunctival swabs for C. trachomatis detection by qPCR were collected at each time-point. Conjunctival photographs from baseline and final time-points were graded and compared side-by-side to determine scarring incidence and progression. Of the 666 children enrolled in the study, outcome data were obtained for 448. Scarring progression was detected in 103/448 (23%) children; 48 (11%) of which had incident scarring and 55 (12%) had progression of existing scarring. Scarring was strongly associated with increasing episodes of trachomatous papillary inflammation (TP). Weaker associations were found between episodes of C. trachomatis infection and follicular trachoma (TF) with scarring progression in unadjusted models, which were absent in multivariable analysis after adjusting for inflammation (multivariable results: C. trachomatis p = 0.44, TF p = 0.25, TP p = <0.0001, age p = 0.13, female sex p = 0.05). Individuals having TP at 30% or more of the time-points they were seen had an odds ratio of 7.5 (95%CI = 2.7-20.8) for scarring progression relative to individuals without any TP detected during the study period. CONCLUSIONS:These data suggest that the effect of infection on scarring progression is mediated through papillary inflammation, and that other factors contributing to the development of inflammation, in addition to C. trachomatis infection, may be important in driving conjunctival scarring progression in children. The addition of TP as a measure in trachoma control programs would provide an indication of the future risk of developing scarring sequelae.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Trachoma is endemic in several Pacific Island states. Recent surveys across the Solomon Islands indicated that whilst trachomatous inflammation-follicular (TF) was present at levels warranting intervention, the prevalence of trachomatous trichiasis (TT) was low. We set out to determine the relationship between chlamydial infection and trachoma in this population.<h4>Methods</h4>We conducted a population-based trachoma prevalence survey of 3674 individuals from two Solomon Islands provinces. Participants were examined for clinical signs of trachoma. Conjunctival swabs were collected from all children aged 1-9 years. We tested swabs for Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) DNA using droplet digital PCR. Chlamydial DNA from positive swabs was enriched and sequenced for use in phylogenetic analysis.<h4>Results</h4>We observed a moderate prevalence of TF in children aged 1-9 years (n = 296/1135, 26.1%) but low prevalence of trachomatous inflammation-intense (TI) (n = 2/1135, 0.2%) and current Ct infection (n = 13/1002, 1.3%) in children aged 1-9 years, and TT in those aged 15+ years (n = 2/2061, 0.1%). Ten of 13 (76.9%) cases of infection were in persons with TF or TI (p = 0.0005). Sequence analysis of the Ct-positive samples yielded 5/13 (38%) complete (>95% coverage of reference) genome sequences, and 8/13 complete plasmid sequences. Complete sequences all aligned most closely to ocular serovar reference strains.<h4>Discussion</h4>The low prevalence of TT, TI and Ct infection that we observed are incongruent with the high proportion of children exhibiting signs of TF. TF is present at levels that apparently warrant intervention, but the scarcity of other signs of trachoma indicates the phenotype is mild and may not pose a significant public health threat. Our data suggest that, whilst conjunctival Ct infection appears to be present in the region, it is present at levels that are unlikely to be the dominant driving force for TF in the population. This could be one reason for the low prevalence of TT observed during the study.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Chlamydia trachomatis is globally the predominant infectious cause of blindness and one of the most common bacterial causes of sexually transmitted infection. Infections of the conjunctiva cause the blinding disease trachoma, an immuno-pathological disease that is characterised by chronic conjunctival inflammation and fibrosis. The polymorphic Killer-cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptors (KIR) are found on Natural Killer cells and have co-evolved with the Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) class I system. Certain genetic constellations of KIR and HLA class I polymorphisms are associated with a number of diseases in which modulation of the innate responses to viral and intracellular bacterial pathogens is central.<h4>Methodology</h4>A sample of 134 Gambian pedigrees selected to contain at least one individual with conjunctival scarring in the F1 generation was used. Individuals (n?=?830) were genotyped for HLA class I and KIR gene families. Family Based Association Tests and Case Pseudo-control tests were used to extend tests for transmission disequilibrium to take full advantage of the family design, genetic model and phenotype.<h4>Principle findings</h4>We found that the odds of trachomatous scarring increased with the number of genome copies of HLA-C2 (C1/C2 OR?=?2.29 BHP-value?=?0.006; C2/C2 OR?=?3.97 BHP-value?=?0.0004) and further increased when both KIR2DL2 and KIR2DL3 (C2/C2 OR?=?5.95 BHP-value?=?0.006) were present.<h4>Conclusions</h4>To explain the observations in the context of chlamydial infection and trachoma we propose a two-stage model of response and disease that balances the cytolytic response of KIR expressing NK cells with the ability to secrete interferon gamma, a combination that may cause pathology. The data presented indicate that HLA-C genotypes are important determinants of conjunctival scarring in trachoma and that KIR2DL2/KIR2DL3 heterozygosity further increases risk of conjunctival scarring in individuals carrying HLA-C2.