B cells can contribute to acquired immunity against intracellular bacteria, but do not usually participate in primary clearance. Here, we examined the endogenous CD4 T cell response to genital infection with Chlamydia muridarum using MHC class-II tetramers. Chlamydia-specific CD4 T cells expanded rapidly and persisted as a stable memory pool for several months after infection. While most lymph node Chlamydia-specific CD4 T cells expressed T-bet, a small percentage co-expressed Foxp3, and RORγt-expressing T cells were enriched within the reproductive tract. Local Chlamydia-specific CD4 T cell priming was markedly reduced in mice lacking B cells, and bacteria were able to disseminate to the peritoneal cavity, initiating a cellular infiltrate and ascites. However, bacterial dissemination also coincided with elevated systemic Chlamydia-specific CD4 T cell responses and resolution of primary infection. Together, these data reveal heterogeneity in pathogen-specific CD4 T cell responses within the genital tract and an unexpected requirement for B cells in regulating local T cell activation and bacterial dissemination during genital infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology