Research Papers: Gerotarget (Focus on Aging):

Soluble antigens from the neurotropic pathogen Angiostrongylus cantonensis directly induce thymus atrophy in a mouse model

Zhen Liu, Dong-Ming Su, Zi-Long Yu, Feng Wu, Rui-Feng Liu, Shi-Qi Luo, Zhi-Yue Lv, Xin Zeng, Xi Sun and Zhong-Dao Wu _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:48575-48590. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17836

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Zhen Liu1,2,3, Dong-Ming Su4, Zi-Long Yu1,2,3, Feng Wu1,2,3, Rui-Feng Liu1, Shi-Qi Luo1,2,3, Zhi-Yue Lv1,2,3, Xin Zeng1,2,3, Xi Sun1,2,3 and Zhong-Dao Wu1,2,3

1 Department of Parasitology of Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

2 Key Laboratory of Tropical Disease Control, Ministry of Education, Guangzhou, China

3 Provincial Engineering Technology Research Center for Diseases-Vectors Control, Guangzhou, China

4 Institute for Molecular Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX, USA

Correspondence to:

Zhong-Dao Wu, email:

Xi Sun, email:

Keywords: Angiostrongylus cantonensis, central nervous system, thymic atrophy, soluble antigens, intrathymic injection, Gerotarget

Received: March 13, 2017 Accepted: May 02, 2017 Published: May 12, 2017


The nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis (A.C.) is a neurotropic pathogen; stage-III larva invade the human (non-permissive host) central nervous system (CNS) to cause eosinophilic meningitis or meningoencephalitis accompanied by immunosuppression. In an A.C.-infectedmouse (another non-permissive host) model, CNS damage-associated T cell immune deficiency and severe inflammation were proposed to result from activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. However, glucocorticoids are anti-inflammatory agents. Additionally, while defects in thymic stromal/epithelial cells (TECs) are the major reason for thymic atrophy, TECs do not express the glucocorticoid receptor. Therefore, activation of the HPA axis cannot fully explain the thymic atrophy and inflammation. Using an A.C.-infected mouse model, we found that A.C.-infected mice developed severe thymic atrophy with dramatic impairments in thymocytes and TECs, particularly cortical TECs, which harbor CD4+CD8+ double-positive thymocytes. The impairments resulted from soluble antigens (sAgs) from A.C. in the thymuses of infected mice, as intrathymic injection of these sAgs into live mice and the addition of these sAgs to thymic cell culture resulted in thymic atrophy and cellular apoptosis, respectively. Therefore, in addition to an indirect effect on thymocytes through the HPA axis, our study reveals a novel mechanism by which A.C. infection in non-permissive hosts directly induces defects in both thymocytes and TECs via soluble antigens.

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