Acquisition of hemozoin by monocytes down-regulates interleukin-12 p40 (IL-12p40) transcripts and circulating IL-12p70 through an IL-10-dependent mechanism: in vivo and in vitro findings in severe malarial anemia.
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Severe malarial anemia (SMA) is a primary cause of morbidity and mortality in immune-naïve infants and young children residing in areas of holoendemic Plasmodium falciparum transmission. Although the immunopathogenesis of SMA is largely undefined, we have previously shown that systemic interleukin-12 (IL-12) production is suppressed during childhood blood-stage malaria. Since IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) are known to decrease IL-12 synthesis in a number of infectious diseases, altered transcriptional regulation of these inflammatory mediators was investigated as a potential mechanism for IL-12 down-regulation. Ingestion of naturally acquired malarial pigment (hemozoin [PfHz]) by monocytes promoted the overproduction of IL-10 and TNF-alpha relative to the production of IL-12, which correlated with an enhanced severity of malarial anemia. Experiments with cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and CD14(+) cells from malaria-naïve donors revealed that physiological concentrations of PfHz suppressed IL-12 and augmented IL-10 and TNF-alpha by altering the transcriptional kinetics of IL-12p40, IL-10, and TNF-alpha, respectively. IL-10 neutralizing antibodies, but not TNF-alpha antibodies, restored PfHz-induced suppression of IL-12. Blockade of IL-10 and the addition of recombinant IL-10 to cultured PBMC from children with SMA confirmed that IL-10 was responsible for malaria-induced suppression of IL-12. Taken together, these results demonstrate that PfHz-induced up-regulation of IL-10 is responsible for the suppression of IL-12 during malaria.