Mucosal immune responses in the trachea after chronic infection with Mycoplasma gallisepticum in unvaccinated and vaccinated mature chickens

Sathya N. Kulappu Arachchige, Nadeeka K. Wawegama, Mauricio J.C. Coppo, Habtamu B. Derseh, Paola K. Vaz, Anna Kanci Condello, Oluwadamilola S. Omotainse, Amir H. Noormohammadi, Glenn F. Browning

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Tracheitis associated with the chronic respiratory disease in chickens caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum is marked by infiltration of leukocytes into the mucosa. Although cytokines/chemokines are known to play a key role in the recruitment, differentiation, and proliferation of leukocytes, those that are produced and secreted into the trachea during the chronic stages of infection with M. gallisepticum have not been described previously. In this study, the levels of transcription in the trachea of genes encoding a panel of 13 cytokines/chemokines were quantified after experimental infection with the M. gallisepticum wild-type strain Ap3AS in unvaccinated chickens and chickens vaccinated 40-, 48- or 57-weeks previously with the novel attenuated strain ts-304. These transcriptional levels in unvaccinated/infected and vaccinated/infected chickens were compared with those of unvaccinated/uninfected and vaccinated/uninfected chickens. Pathological changes and subsets of leukocytes infiltrating the tracheal mucosa were concurrently assessed by histopathological examination and indirect immunofluorescent staining. After infection, unvaccinated birds had a significant increase in tracheal mucosal thickness and in transcription of genes for cytokines/chemokines, including those for IFN-γ, IL-17, RANTES (CCLi4), and CXCL-14, and significant downregulation of IL-2 gene transcription. B cells, CD3+ or CD4+ cells and macrophages (KUL01+) accumulated in the mucosa but CD8+ cells were not detected. In vaccinated birds, the levels of transcription of the genes for IL-6, IL-2, RANTES and CXCL-14 were significantly lower after infection than in the unvaccinated/infected and/or unvaccinated/uninfected birds, while the transcription of the IFN-γ gene was significantly upregulated, and there were aggregations of B cells in the tracheal mucosa. These observations indicated that M. gallisepticum may have suppressed Th2 responses by upregulating secretion of IFN-γ and IL-17 by CD4+ cells and induced immune dysregulation characterized by depletion of CD8+ cells and downregulation of IL-2 in the tracheas of unvaccinated birds. The ts-304 vaccine appeared to induce long-term protection against this immune dysregulation. Take Away: The ts-304 vaccine-induced long-term protection against immune dysregulation caused by M. gallisepticum Detection of B cells and plasma cells in the tracheal mucosa suggested that long-term protection is mediated by mucosal B cell memory Infection of unvaccinated birds with M. gallisepticum resulted in CD8+ cell depletion and downregulation of IL-2 in the tracheal mucosa, suggestive of immune dysregulation Infection of unvaccinated birds with M. gallisepticum resulted in upregulation of IFN-γ and infiltration of CD4+ cells and antigen presenting cells (B and KUL01+ cells) into the tracheal mucosa, suggesting enhanced antigen processing and presentation during chronic infection Th2 responses to infection with M. gallisepticum may be dampened by CD4+ cells through upregulation of IFN-γ and IL-17 during chronic infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13383
JournalCellular Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • chicken
  • cytokine
  • lymphocytes
  • macrophage
  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Virology


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