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Salmonella Typhimurium induces SPI-1 and SPI-2 regulated and strain dependent downregulation of MHC II expression on porcine alveolar macrophages

Alexander Van Parys*, Filip Boyen, Elin Verbrugghe, Bregje Leyman, Flahou Bram, Freddy Haesebrouck and Frank Pasmans

Author Affiliations

Ghent University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Salisburylaan 133, 9820, Merelbeke, Belgium

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Veterinary Research 2012, 43:52  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-43-52

Published: 13 June 2012


Foodborne salmonellosis is one of the most important bacterial zoonotic diseases worldwide. Salmonella Typhimurium is the serovar most frequently isolated from persistently infected slaughter pigs in Europe. Circumvention of the host’s immune system by Salmonella might contribute to persistent infection of pigs. In the present study, we found that Salmonella Typhimurium strain 112910a specifically downregulated MHC II, but not MHC I, expression on porcine alveolar macrophages in a Salmonella pathogenicity island (SPI)-1 and SPI-2 dependent way. Salmonella induced downregulation of MHC II expression and intracellular proliferation of Salmonella in macrophages were significantly impaired after opsonization with Salmonella specific antibodies prior to inoculation. Furthermore, the capacity to downregulate MHC II expression on macrophages differed significantly among Salmonella strains, independently of strain specific differences in invasion capacity, Salmonella induced cytotoxicity and altered macrophage activation status. The fact that strain specific differences in MHC II downregulation did not correlate with the extent of in vitro SPI-1 or SPI-2 gene expression indicates that other factors are involved in MHC II downregulation as well. Since Salmonella strain dependent interference with the pig’s immune response through downregulation of MHC II expression might indicate that certain Salmonella strains are more likely to escape serological detection, our findings are of major interest for Salmonella monitoring programs primarily based on serology.