Cowdria ruminantium is a bacterial parasite that infects ruminants, causing an acute and often fatal disease. These obligate intracellular Gram-negative bacteria preferentially infect neutrophils and vascular endothelial cells, especially in the brain. The present study was performed with bovine brain microvessel endothelial cells in culture, infected by C. ruminantium in the presence or absence of IFN-gamma. Infection induced the production of IL-1 beta, -6, and -8 mRNAs, and this effect was potentiated by IFN-gamma. A semi-quantitative PCR analysis indicated that similar amounts of IL-1 beta and IL-6 mRNAs were produced in response to C. ruminantium infection and to treatment with 30 to 40 ng/ml LPS. In addition, although IFN-gamma induced the synthesis of an MHC class II DQ alpha transcript (1.3 kb), an unusual transcript (1.5 kb) was induced by infection and not after LPS treatment. Infection did not affect MHC class I, class II DQ beta, and invariant chain mRNA levels. The present results suggest that C. ruminantium infection raises the immune activity of brain endothelial cells in vitro and that only part of this response can be attributed to LPS. One can hypothesize that cerebral endothelium in vivo efficiently contributes, by MHC Ag expression and production of ILs, to the activation and/or recruitment of leukocytes to the brain and thus plays an active role in the pathogenesis of cowdriosis and in the immune response to this pathogen.

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