Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Immunology

First Advisor

De'Broski R. Herbert

Abstract

Helminths are distinct from microbial pathogens in terms of size and complexity, and are likely the evolutionary driving force for type 2 immunity. CD4+ helper T cells can both coordinate worm clearance and prevent immunopathology, but issues of T cell antigen specificity in the context of helminth-induced Th2 and T regulatory cell (Treg) responses have not been addressed. Herein, a novel transgenic line of the gastrointestinal nematode Strongyloides ratti was generated that expresses the immunodominant CD4+ T cell epitope 2W1S as a fusion protein with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and FLAG peptide in order to track and study helminth-specific CD4+ T cells. C57BL/6 mice infected with this stable transgenic line (termed Hulk) underwent a dose-dependent expansion of activated CD44+CD11a+ 2W1S-specific CD4+ T cells, preferentially in the lung parenchyma. Transcriptional profiling of 2W1S-specific CD4+ T cells isolated from mice infected with either Hulk or the enteric bacterial pathogen Salmonella expressing 2W1S revealed that pathogen context exerted a dominant influence over CD4+ T cell phenotype. Interestingly, Hulk-elicited 2W1S-specific CD4+ T cells exhibited both Th2 and Treg phenotypes and expressed high levels of the EGFR ligand amphiregulin, which differed greatly from the phenotype of 2W1S-specific CD4+ T cells elicited by 2W1S-expressing Salmonella. While immunization with 2W1S peptide did not enhance clearance of Hulk infection, immunization did increase total amphiregulin production as well as the number of amphiregulin-expressing CD3+ cells in the lung following Hulk infection. Altogether, this new model system reveals that helminth-specific CD4+ T cells can adopt effector as well as immunosuppressive and wound reparative phenotypes. This report establishes a new resource for studying the nature and function of helminth-specific T cells.

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