Evidence for naturally acquired T cell-mediated mucosal immunity to Neisseria meningitidis

Victoria Davenport*, Terry Guthrie, Jamie Findlow, Raymond Borrow, Neil A. Williams, Robert S. Heyderman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Naturally acquired protective immunity against Neisseria meningitidis is thought to partially explain the disparity between the high levels of carriage in the human nasopharynx and the rare incidence of disease. To investigate this immunity to Neisseria meningitidis at the mucosal level, in vitro cellular responses to outer membrane vesicle preparations derived from this pathogen were examined using mononuclear cells from the palatine tonsils of adults and children. Characterization of these responses was achieved by depletion of CD45RA+, CD45RO+, and CD19+ populations and outer membrane vesicles derived from isogenic mutants expressing different serosubtypes of the major outer membrane protein, porin A (PorA), no PorA and membrane preparations from a mutant with no LPS (LpxA-). The magnitude of cellular proliferative responses against the outer membrane vesicles were strongly associated with age and were largely T cell mediated, involving both CD45RO+ and CD45RA+ T cell phenotypes. Responses were not dependent on LPS but consisted of both PorA cross-specific and non-PorA-dependent responses. Cellular immunity against Neisseria meningitidis was found to be frequently associated with systemic IgG Abs but was not associated with serum bactericidal Abs. For the first time our results demonstrate an age-associated acquisition of mucosal T effector/memory cell responses to Neisseria meningitidis. This mucosal cellular immunity can be present in the absence of serum bactericidal Abs, a classical marker of protective immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4263-4270
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes


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